Scammers target area with fake IRS e-mail

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NATCHEZ — When Pat Sanguinetti opened his e-mail Sunday night, he found a surprise — the IRS was offering him money.

Immediately, he was suspicious.

“I knew it was not legitimate,” he said. “I knew I had no refund.”

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The e-mail asked him to click on a link and enter information to get a tax refund.

The link took him to a Web site that looked much like the IRS Web site.

“It has the same colors, the same flag,” Sanguinetti said.

It asked for his social security number, debit card information and personal identification number.

But when he tried to click on the page’s “contact us” link, it brought him back to the same page. To Sanguinetti, that was a big red flag.

In addition, the Web site address ended in .com instead of the government-designated .org.

He immediately contacted the IRS, who confirmed the e-mail was a scam.

The IRS’ Web site,, posted a warning Nov. 7 about e-mail scams claiming to try to return a tax refund.

Anyone who receives an e-mail from the IRS should be extremely wary, IRS spokeswoman Dee Harris said.

“Definitely do not click on any links,” Harris said. “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail.”

The scam’s timing coincides with the IRS’ genuine effort to return unclaimed tax refunds.

But the government agency asks taxpayers to visit its Web site rather than respond to e-mails.

“As soon as (scammers) find out something is going on, they find a way to use it in a scam,” Harris said.

Anyone who receives an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS should not respond, not give out personal or financial information, and “definitely do not click on any links,” Harris said.

“(Clicking on links) could download viruses or malicious software,” she said. “It could steal passwords and other information on victims.”

By using victims’ personal information, scammers could withdraw money, get loans or set up bank accounts, she said.

Anyone who receives a suspicious e-mail claiming to be from the IRS should forward it to A scam hotline is also available at 1-800-366-4484.

Sanguinetti said he was worried others might fall into the trap. The phony Web site looks too genuine, he said.

“People are going to think it’s legit,” he said. “When I saw this, I thought, ‘Somebody’s going to fall for this, no question.’ If someone goes in and puts in (financial information), these people have everything.”

Harris said a little common sense and Web-savvy smarts can go a long way.

“People should be very wary,” she said. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”