Phony tax e-mail pretends to be from IRS as extension filing day arrives

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tax documents and a penAs Friday's tax deadline approaches for those who applied for extensions in April, don't be fooled if you get an e-mail that appears to be from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service -- it's a scam to trick you into giving up personal information to potential ID thieves.

The Better Business Bureau, Greater Maryland issued an alert to be on the lookout for an e-mail with the subject line: "Your Tax Payment ID: 010377149 has been rejected. Urgent Report information," following reports from consumers and businesses who received the message.

The IRS said it doesn't contact taxpayers through e-mail -- ever. The agency warned that if you click on the link in the e-mail, you'll get sent to a site with malware that will attempt to infect your computer.

Consumer Ally did go to the site link listed in the BBB's warning, but it had since been closed down.

Here's what the e-mail tells you: a tax return has been rejected through the IRS' Electronic Federal Tax Payment System because the ID number for the company identification field isn't valid. Then it tells you, with a warning that a tax payment is still due, to check the code with either the link provided, or to forward the information to your accountant.

"The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails asking for personal information," said Angie Barnett, president and CEO of BBB, Greater Maryland. "Don't be taken in by these criminals."

Trying to get information via unsolicited e-mails is called phishing. Typically scammers will use information they've gleaned to steal identities and drain finances. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said identity theft comprises 21% of all consumer crimes reported to it and other agencies in 2009. Phishing is just one of a number of ways taxpayers can get scammed.

The IRS recommended if you get an e-mail from either the IRS or the EFTPS program to forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov. Don't reply or access any of the links.
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