I recently watched a news report warning about Internet fraud with tax refunds. Can you offer advice on how best to protect ourselves from such criminals?
During this time of year, consumers are warned about scams involving the receipt of unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS or some IRS-related office. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
Phishing is a scam that is usually done by sending unsolicited emails, and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites in order to lure unsuspecting people into providing personal or financial information. If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information, do not reply and do not open any attachments as the attachments may infect your computer. Also, do not click on any links.
Similarly, if you receive any other correspondence or telephone calls from anyone claiming to be with the IRS but you suspect otherwise, ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
Thereafter, contact the IRS and ask if there is an IRS employee calling you with a legitimate need to contact you. If you have a tax-related question, please contact the IRS. Additional theft prevention information can be found at www.irs.gov.
Additionally, you should note the OnGuard Online website located at www.onguardonline.gov. Created through a partnership of 16 agencies, this site offers tips on avoiding spam, securing your computer, comparing products online, and protecting children from cyber-bullying.
Advice on protecting yourself from other on-line scams including ruses involving fake checks, investments, work-at-home offers, and mystery shopping is also provided.
Charles Hynes is the Kings County District Attorney.