I saw something online the other day about a rebate scam. Do you know anything about that? If so, please share the details. Thanks!

Excellent question! This is something that has been plastered all over the Web since about the last week in January (2008) and it’s something every computer user should be aware of. So, what do you say we stop wasting time and get right down to it? Here we go!

I’m sure most of you are aware that the United States Congress has been working on an economic stimulus package that will issue Americans tax rebate checks. And unfortunately, once the word about that spread, hackers started to take full advantage. At the end of January, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) began sending out warnings about rebate scams. They said that identity thieves are already working on using the tax rebates as a way to get personal and financial information out of people.

As of right now, it seems as if their biggest tactic is to call people on the telephone and tell them they won’t receive their rebate until they provide their banking information for a direct deposit. Now, I don’t know about you, but just hearing that makes me think of a scam! You should always remember that tax agencies will never call you and ask for your information over the phone. That’s just not how they work. Also, no legislation has been passed that would even allow that to happen. So, if you ever receive a phone call like that, do not give out any of your information. If you do, you’ll just be another scam victim.

The IRS said the threats are coming via e-mail as well. The e-mail looks like it’s coming from a tax agency and it asks you to fill out a form that is supposedly needed to receive your rebate. Of course, the form asks for all of your personal information and if you fill it out, it will be put into the wrong hands. Another version of the e-mail scam involves a notification that a person’s rebate will be audited. It then asks you to click on a link to fill out the forms needed for the process, which of course, require all of your personal and bank account information.

This scam is even going as far as e-mailing businesses and accountants, telling them to download information about tax law changes. Once they do that, malware is put onto their computer that gives the hacker remote access to the computer’s hard drive. And that could put several peoples’ information at risk. There’s also another version of the telephone scam where the caller claims to be an IRS agent. They go on to tell you that you have not yet cashed your rebate check and you must confirm your bank account number before you can do so. Wow, that’s all a little crazy, don’t you think?!

Now, I personally have not run into any of these scams in my e-mail or by phone, but with the rebate checks being distributed soon, they could pick up pace rather quickly. So, I’m telling you now: do not click on any suspicious links you may get in your e-mail and do not give out any personal information over the phone unless you’re 100 percent sure it’s legit. If you receive a questionable e-mail, you can always contact the IRS through this e-mail address: phishing@irs.gov as well. And as always, if you simply use your common sense, you won’t run into any problems. I promise!

~ Erin