As the IRS begins sending economic stimulus checks to eligible taxpayers, the FBI is warning recipients about a scam related to the money.
Fraudsters are sending out fake e-mails notifying individuals that direct deposit is the fastest and easiest way to receive their tax rebate checks from the IRS.
After clicking on a link that appears to be from the IRS, computer users are asked to enter personal and other information, including bank account records, which scammers use to withdraw the money — usually via wire transfer.
According to the complaints received by the FBI, the fake e-mails claim, "Our records indicate that you are qualified to receive the 2008 Economic Stimulus Refund. The fastest and easiest way to receive your refund is by direct deposit to your checking/savings account. Please follow the link and fill out the form and submit before May 10th, 2008 to ensure that your refund will be processed as soon as possible."
The fraudulent e-mail warns that "Submitting your form on May 10th, 2008 or later means that your refund will be delayed due to the volume of requests we anticipate for the Economic Stimulus Refund."
In a report on Internet crimes last month, the FBI estimated that people lost $240 million to such crimes in 2007.
More and more online scammers have used phishing or spoof e-mails, which look like they are coming from a U.S. government e-mail account using the .gov address.
According to FBI officials, there have been more than 1,000 different e-mail scams purporting to be from the IRS in the past several years.
The FBI warning to consumers and computer users from the Internet Crime Complaint Center notes, "Consumers are advised that the IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications via e-mail. In addition, the IRS does not request detailed personal information via e-mail or ask taxpayers for the pin numbers, passwords."