NEW IRS Notice is Really a Phishing Scam

IRS notice with web form for checking the status of tax returns and refunds is a phishing scam: Internet ScamBusters #160

Internet ScamBusters™

The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford

Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford

All rights reserved.

Issue #160

Hi Everyone,

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

Before we get going, we wanted to first let you know about a new consumer tips

blog we’ve created. It’s called Consumer Savvy Tips, and it’s filled with cutting-edge

consumer advice and tips to help you save money and avoid getting scammed. You’ll

find one or two new articles every day.

You’ll discover consumer tips

on everything from working at home to car buying advice, from computer viruses

to barains, from career tips to travel. Check it out here.

Let’s begin…

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

— 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

My Refund?

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


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.

And while we’re talking about gas prices, if you’d like 16 easy tips to save money

on gas prices,

as well as another useful article on saving

money on gas, visit now.

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. You can find out more about


1.5 and where to download it here.

Time to close. We’ll see you next week…