Phishing is a serious crime which attempts to lure unsuspecting email recipients into providing personal information to con artists purporting a trustworthy business. Unfortunately for internet users, these phishing scams have became more sophisticated and ultimately more difficult to spot. The average user may find it hard to distinguish this scam from a legitimate email - ignorance that could easily lead to identity theft.

Phishing scams take advantage of IRS fear

To make their intentions appear genuine, many of these con artists masquerade as well known organizations. Respected businesses from eBay to PayPal have been used to pull off this scam. Phishers have even gone as far to pose as government entities, as the case with the IRS phishing scam. The Internal Revenue Service makes a viable target, as everything revolves around a Social Security number, which is essentially the key to identity theft.

The IRS strikes fear into the hearts of many. Some are willingly to fork over any information that is requested in order to avoid penalization. If you're not careful, you could easily become victimized by one of many IRS phishing scams.

The TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) is the IRS department responsible for enforcing phishing policies. Over the past few years, they have shut down well over 1,600 phishing sites, but remain confident that these scams will only increase in the future.

Recent IRS phishing scams

The most recent variation of IRS phishing involved stimulus payments from the government.

This scam came off as very believable, as many consumers were anxious to learn about the money they were promised. Some of the messages included links that allowed recipients to track their checks, prompting them to enter personal information to do so. According to one IRS representative, this email contained a link to a dead page which was a telling sign that the message was attempting to lead recipients to a rogue website. The good thing is that the site had already been shut down before a high number of consumers could be scammed.

As phishing grows in popularity, reporting agencies have become more efficient at detecting them, resulting in many of these sites being shut down within a matter of hours after being launched. When phishing scams first began to appear on the internet, the average life span of a rogue website was just over two days, more than enough time for criminals to collect the personal information they needed.

The Facts on Anti-Phishing

Your can protect yourself from IRS phishing by knowing how this government entity operates. The IRS will never send you an unsolicited email that contains warnings or requests for your personal information. Unless you are currently working with someone from the Internal Revenue Service, any email claiming to be from them is nothing but a scam. The key to protecting yourself from this scam is to never click on a link provided in the email. Instead, manually type the URL for the IRS into your web browser and investigate the matter yourself. This will allow you to confirm the authenticity of the message without placing yourself at risk.

In regards to the stimulus payment, you can find a link on their homepage that will take you directly to the appropriate resources.

To report IRS phising, you can send a copy of the suspicious message to [email protected] or file a report on the TIGTA website.

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Identity theft comes in many forms.

A person\92s identity can be 'borrowed' for the purpose of creating fictional credit cards or a person\92s entire identity can be usurped to the point where they can have difficulty proving that they really are who they claim to be.

Up to 18% of identity theft victims take as long as four years to realize that their identity has been stolen.

There are many ways to protect your personal identity and many steps you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen:

*Never give out unnecessary personal information
*Never provide bank details or social security numbers over the Internet
*Always remain aware of who is standing behind you when you type in your personal credit codes at ATM machines and at supermarket checkout swipe machines.