Volume 4 Number 47
November 23, 2007

YOU CAN HELP STOP EMAIL SCAMS

Have you been solicited by email asking you to give your money to a charity that sounds like it will help a noble cause? You should verify before you buy into the idea that you are helping some good cause with your donation. Here's why - The latest fraud was reported by the IRS, warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam that appears to be a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to victims of the recent Southern California wildfires.

The scam e-mail urges recipients to click on a link, which then opens what appears to be the IRS Web site but which is, in fact, a fake. An item on the phony Web site urges donations and includes a link that opens a donation form which requests your personal and financial information. Be aware that the IRS does not send e-mails soliciting charitable donations! As a rule, the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails or ask for personal and financial information via e-mail. The IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

The bogus e-mails appear to be a “phishing” scheme, in which you are tricked into providing personal and financial information that can be used to gain access to and steal your assets. The IRS also believes that clicking on the link downloads MALWARE, or malicious software, onto your computer. The MALWARE will steal passwords and other account information it finds on the victim's computer system and send them to the scamster. So how can you protect yourself from this MALWARE threat? Use a good antivirus software program on your computer, and set it to automatically receive frequent updates for protection against the latest scams. Never click and open email from unknown senders.

If you got this scam e-mail and clicked on any of the links, you should have your computer checked for malicious software and monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity, taking measures to prevent access. Report any unauthorized activity to law enforcement and to the three major credit bureaus.

In addition, you can help the IRS shut down this scheme! Here's how: if you got the phony email, call a toll-free hotline at 1-800-366-4484 or forward it to phishing@irs.gov, to have the bogus sites taken offline as soon as they are reported. Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 30,000 e-mails reporting almost 600 separate phishing incidents! To date, almost 900 host sites have been identified in at least 55 different countries, as well as in the United States.