With tax season nigh, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding us about the prevalence of bogus government e-mail that tries to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information.
Known as "phishing" scams, the phony but legitimate-looking e-mail might download malicious code onto a computer when the victim opens an attachment or clicks on a link. The malicious code could take over the hard drive and give someone remote access to the computer, or it could look for and collect passwords and other information.
The IRS also warns that not all the scams are conducted through e-mail. Some can take place by phone or fax. Some identity thieves may go through trash looking for discarded tax returns, bank records, credit card receipts or other records.
To spot a scam, the IRS says you should watch out for:
Requests for personal and/or financial information.
Bait, such as a tax refund or offering to pay you to participate in an IRS survey, to get you to respond.
Threats to block your access to funds for not responding.
English usage errors, such as spelling the IRS' name incorrectly; incorrect grammar and spelling, and odd phrasing.
Really long addresses in any link in the e-mail message or one that does not include the IRS Web site address.
As a rule, the IRS does not ask for personal information or share information about tax accounts via e-mail. The only genuine IRS Web site is IRS.gov. All IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with http:--www.irs.gov/. To be extra secure, type the IRS address into the search engine rather than clicking on any link in an e-mail.