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Consumer
Crooks use rebate checks to snare victims
ATLANTA (2/11/08)--Crooks are drumming up new ways to heist money from victims’ financial accounts. Some of those scams use the government's new economic stimulus package's proposed rebate checks as bait (Associated Press via CNNMoney.com). Despite well-publicized warnings, victims unwittingly hand over personal information--such as account numbers or Social Security numbers. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials warn that a variety of scams could be around through the end of the tax season and beyond (irs.gov Jan. 30). Be on the lookout for these phone and e-mail scams:
* Give account info for direct deposit of rebate. The caller claims to be from the IRS and promises a sizable rebate in return for bank account information--which supposedly is required for the direct deposit. If you refuse, you’re told you can’t receive the rebate. Hang up--it’s a scam. * Click on link for refund claim form. This bogus e-mail message looks legitimate, but if you respond and enter personal information, expect your accounts to run dry. * Click on link because your return is being audited. The link prompts you to complete forms with personal and account information. Hit the delete button and keep identity thieves at bay. * Check not cashed--please verify account info. The caller claims to be from the IRS and to have sent out a check. But don’t comply with any request for an account number over the phone--or in an e-mail message.
Bottom line: Don’t let rebate-check anticipation cloud your senses. If a tax preparer tries to convince you to take out a short-term advance loan on your stimulus rebate check, just say no. Consumer advocates expect these loan products--which carry excessive interest rates typically aimed at people who can’t afford them--to pop up as soon as rebate checks are in the mail.
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