Beware of San Diego Wildfire Scams

Posted on 04. Nov, 2007 by in Fraud & Scams, News

The Internal Revenue Service this week warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam that appears to be a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to victims of the recent Southern California wildfires.

In an effort to appear legitimate, the bogus e-mails include text from an actual speech about the wildfires by a member of the California Assembly.

The scam e-mail urges recipients to click on a link, which then opens what appears to be the IRS Web site but which is, in fact, a fake. An item on the phony Web site urges donations and includes a link that opens a donation form which requests the recipient’s personal and financial information.

“People should exercise caution when they receive unsolicited e-mail or e-mail from senders they don’t know,” said Richard Spires, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support. “They should avoid opening any attachments or clicking on any links until they can verify the e-mail’s legitimacy.”

The bogus e-mails appear to be a “phishing” scheme, in which recipients are tricked into providing personal and financial information that can be used to gain access to and steal the e-mail recipient’s assets.

The IRS also believes that clicking on the link downloads malware, or malicious software, onto the recipient’s computer. The malware will steal passwords and other account information it finds on the victim’s computer system and send them to the scamster.

Generally, scamsters use the data they fraudulently obtain to empty the recipient’s bank accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name or even file fraudulent tax returns to obtain refunds rightfully belonging to the victim.

As a rule, the IRS does not send e-mails soliciting charitable donations, nor does not send unsolicited e-mails or ask for personal and financial information via e-mail. The IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Recipients of the scam e-mail can help the IRS shut down this scheme by forwarding the e-mail to an electronic mail box, phishing@irs.gov. This mail box was established to receive copies of possibly fraudulent e-mails involving misuse of the IRS name, logo or Web site for investigation. The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

If you’d like to contribute to one of the many charities accepting donations for victims of the California wildfires, please go to the respective charity’s website directly. NEVER click on a donation link from an email.

4 Responses to “Beware of San Diego Wildfire Scams”

  1. John

    08. Jul, 2009

    I was a victim of business scam once and found this article very interesting.

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