tax season as a license to phish
Last week, city auditor Brad Scott cautioned city employees about an official-looking e-mail circulating in the city.
It is seemingly from the Internal Revenue Service and asks that recipients complete a form to process their tax refund. Recipients are told to include personal information, including Social Security and credit card numbers.
This is a classic form of identity theft known as "phishing." It often occurs this time of year when people are expecting their tax refunds. But the "phishers" have picked up the pace this year, knowing that people are expecting an extra refund designed to help stimulate the nation's economy.
Phishing scams are favorites of identity thieves. Sometimes they pose as the IRS, other times as a financial institution. They send official-looking
e-mails to unsuspecting people, hoping to trick them into revealing personal information that can then be used to steal money from their accounts, run up charges on credit cards or apply for loans in the victim's name.
The IRS and all reputable financial institutions never use e-mail to initiate contact with people, so view these e-mails with suspicion. If you want to verify the authenticity of a contact from the IRS, or check on the status of your refund, call toll-free 1-800-829-1040.
We investigate several phishing cases every week, but it appears most people report these scams to their banks and fail to notify police. If you are a victim of this or any other scheme to defraud, please report it to us by calling our nonemergency number at (727) 893-7780.
William Proffitt, St. Petersburg police spokesman