IRS notice with web form for checking the status of tax returns and refunds is a phishing scam: Internet ScamBusters #160
Happy New Year! We'll begin 2006 with 3 Snippets:
- NEW: IRS Notice with Web Form for Checking the Status of Tax Returns and Refunds is a Phishing Scam
- Gas Theft Via Siphoning From Car Gas Tanks Is Becoming a Big Problem
- Firefox 1.5 Has New Built-In Security Features Worth Checking Out
NEW: IRS Notice with Web Form for Checking the Status of Tax Returns and Refunds is a Phishing Scam
Last month, we saw a new phishing scam that supposedly was sent by the IRS letting taxpayers know about a "handy" new Web form that they could use to check on the status of their federal income tax returns and refunds.
Here's a sample of the phishing email (one we saw had the return address of firstname.lastname@example.org):
--- Begin Phishing email
You filed your tax return and you're expecting a refund. You
have just one question and you want the answer now - Where's
Access this secure Web site to find out if the IRS received
your return and whether your refund was processed and sent to
New program enhancements allow you to begin a refund trace
online if you have not received your check within 28 days from
the original IRS mailing date. Some of you will also be able
to correct or change your mailing address within this
application if your check was returned to us as undelivered by
the U.S. Postal Service. "Where's My Refund?" will prompt you
when these features are available for your situation.
To get to your refund status, you'll need to provide the
following information as shown on your return:
- Your first and last name
- Your Social Security Number
- Your Credit Card Information
Okay now, Where's My Refund?
Under the Privacy Act of 1974, we must tell you that our legal
right to ask for information is Internal Revenue Code Sections
6001, 6011, 6012(a) and their regulations. [Etc.]
--- End Phishing email/
The "Where's My Refund?" link in these phishing emails goes to a bogus imitation IRS website hosted abroad. Scammers use the information entered by victims to commit identity and financial theft.
The Reality: The IRS doesn't send out unsolicited emails asking for personal or financial information. Further, credit card info, ATM PIN numbers, etc. would never be required to find out about the status of tax returns or tax refunds.
Action: Delete all bogus IRS emails. If you want to contact the IRS about your refund or tax return status, you can either call 1-800-829-1040 or use the genuine "Where's My Refund?" page on the IRS website.
Gas Theft Via Siphoning From Car Gas Tanks Is Becoming a Big Problem
Since gas prices have increased so dramatically over the past year, thieves are now targeting gas tanks for gas theft. A full tank of gas could now be worth $50 to them.
To protect yourself, consider an aftermarket replacement gas cap or fuel-filler door that locks if your car does not have one. They typically cost about $20.
In addition, avoid parking in places where thieves can siphon your gas without being seen.
Firefox 1.5 Has New Built-In Security Features Worth Checking Out
As most subscribers know, we're fans of the Firefox browser, in part for security reasons. And the newest version, Firefox 1.5, which was released in late December, has some useful improvements worth checking out -- and you won't have to learn anything new to use them.
Perhaps the most useful new feature is the security update mechanism. Experts have found that the users most likely to visit malicious websites are often the least likely to remember to install security updates. The new security update mechanism addresses this problem.
Firefox 1.5 notifies you prominently when updates are available, and a small updater file is downloaded that can patch the program itself. This is much easier than the current version, which requires a fresh copy of the entire browser to be downloaded and re-installed.
Another useful security feature is that secure sites are prominently flagged, both with highlighting the address bar in gold, and by showing the site's domain name at the bottom of the window -- which is very useful for spotting fake phishing sites (like the bogus IRS site above) that don't offer secure log-ins.
Firefox 1.5 has some other useful new features, including the ability to rearrange tabs by dragging and dropping them where you want.
Time to close. We'll see you next week...