Scam alert: If you get an email from the IRS, it’s not them

If you get a note from the IRS (Eternal Revenue Service), it’s usually not a good thing unless it comes with a check. But if you get an email from the IRS, you should really pay attention. It might not be them.

I got a strange one in my email box the other day, and it was a genuine head-scratcher:

* * *

Gmail Team mail-noreply@google.com
Jun 2 (5 days ago) 

to me

The message “Your Federal tax report #ID9837” from Internal Revenue Service (customer.service@irs.gov) contained a virus or a suspicious attachment. It was therefore not fetched from your account editor@ericpulsifer.com and has been left on the server.

If you wish to write to Internal, just hit reply and send Internal a message.
Thanks,

The Gmail Team

 

* * *

OK. Here’s the deal. Whoever it was sent it to my business email address, which hasn’t existed very long. See, all my emails feed directly into my gmail box, making it easier to keep track of stuff and handle all my addresses without having to log in and out and in and out. Email addresses are cheap.

Anyway, I went to my business email box:

* * *

Your Federal tax report #ID***7
From : “Internal Revenue Service” <customer.service@irs.gov>
To :
editor@ericpulsifer.com
Received :

06-02-2012 10:18 PM

Tax Refund,

The analysis of the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity has indicated that
you are entitled to receive a tax refund of $382.34
Please submit a request of the tax refund and a processing of the request will take 7-14 days.
A tax refund can be delayed by different reasons.
For instance submission of invalid records or sending after the deadline.

Please find the form of your tax refund attached and fill out it and send a report.

Yours sincerely,
Internal Revenue Service.

* * *

That’s the email, and it’s pure horse dung. I didn’t even bother to open the attachment. But as far as phishing/information mining/scamming goes, it’s an oldie but goodie.

Here’s what I got from the Internet from the Internet Crime Complaint Center:

* * *

Intelligence Note  Prepared by the Internet Crime
Complaint Center (IC3)
December 1, 2005
E-mail disguised as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phishing for personal information
The FBI
has become aware of a spam email claiming the recipient is eligible to receive a
tax refund for $571.94. The email purports to be from tax-returns@irs.gov
with the subject line of “IRS
Tax Refund.” A link is provided in the email to access a form required
to be completed in order to receive the refund. The link appears to connect to the
true IRS website. However, the recipient is redirected to
http://www.porterfam.org/2005/, where personal data, including credit
card information, is captured.
This e-mail is a hoax. Do not follow the provided link.
Be cautious when responding to requests or special offers delivered through unsolicited
email:  Guard your personal information as well as your account information carefully. Keep a list of all your credit cards and account information along with the card
issuer’s contact information. If your monthly statement looks suspicious or you
lose your card(s), contact the issuer immediately.
If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at
www.IC3.gov.

* * *

Looking a little further, I checked from the jackass’ mouth itself, going straight to the IRS website. I pasted it directly in here, so it may look funky.

The upshot is, they’re not going to use email or social media to contact you:

* * *

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information

What is phishing?
Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information. 

All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.

However, if you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication

If

Then

You receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information …
  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  3. Do not click on any links.
    If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit our identity protection page.
  4. Forward the email as-is, to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email and/or header information to us, delete the original email message you received.

Note:
Please forward the full original email to us at phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.

You discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus … send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Suspicious website’.
You receive a phone call or paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee … Phone call: 

  1. Ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
  2. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
  3. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call them back.

Letter or notice via paper mail:

  1. Contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  2. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed.

If caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

You receive an unsolicited e-mail or fax, involving a stock or share purchase … and you are a U.S. citizen located in the United States or its territories or a U.S. citizen living abroad. 

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the email, ‘Stock’.
  3. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may submit a complaint through the FTC Complaint Assistant.

… and you are not a U.S. citizen and reside outside the United States.

  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Contact your securities regulator and file a complaint.
  3. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the e-mail, ‘Stock’.
  4. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may report your complaint to econsumer.gov.
You receive an unsolicited fax (such as Form W8-BEN) claiming to be from the IRS, requesting personal information … Contact the IRS to determine if the fax is from the IRS. 

  • If you learn the fax is not from the IRS, please send us the information via email at phishing@irs.gov. In the subject line of the email, please type the word ‘FAX’.
You have a tax-related question …Note: Do not submit tax-related questions to phishing@irs.gov. If you have a tax-related question, unrelated to phishing or identity theft, please contact the IRS.

How to identify phishing email scams claiming to be from the IRS and bogus IRS websites


The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

The IRS does not …

… request detailed personal information through email.
… send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.


What to do if you receive a suspicious email message that does not claim to be from the IRS

If

Then

You receive a suspicious phishing email not claiming to be from the IRS … Forward the email as-is to reportphishing@antiphishing.org.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE NOT clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Forward the email to your Internet Service Provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov.

* * *

If you’re into links, here’s the IRS announcement.

So I’m not going to open this attachment. I’m not going to bother.

I know they don’t owe me a refund, and if they did they’re not going to tell me unless I ask. What do I think they are, stupid?

(Don’t answer that!)

So if you get an email from the IRS, forget it. It’s not them.

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NYC mayor’s vendetta against bladder busters may spread

A cartoonist for the Conservative Daily News caught the mood just right here.

New Yorkers may soon need to grab a refill if they want to consume mass quantities of soda. That is, if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way.

It’s just another day at the office for Hizzoner. Since taking office, Bloomberg has opened fire on smokers, trans fats, salty snacks and soft drinks. This latest has Bloomberg calling for a ban of sugared drinks in anything larger than 16 ounces, no matter what the majority of voters say.

So much for the famous Bladder Buster, or whatever it is your favorite convenience store calls its 40-plus-ounce Mt. Dew. Even the 20-ounce bottle, which is the new standard size for soda, has to go.

Keep your nose inside the vehicle at all times.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey — which is really New York South though no one will readily admit it — is considering another out-of-left-field law that will prohibit the family dog from riding in the passenger seat with his head sticking out the window. Pets must be restrained when in the vehicle, maybe even with a harness.

Seriously.

I don’t live in New York. I’ve never been there, and I have no desire to ever go there as long as I live. I could say I don’t understand the Bloomberg way of governance, but that would be a lie. I grew up in California, which is about like New York except the sun occasionally shines.

It’s my California experience that keeps me from laughing as I read about the latest Bloomberg Follies and about New Jersey’s proposal. I’ve seen too much, and California wrote the manual on how to be a proper Nanny State. Even New Yorkers laugh at Californians.

(A fast disclaimer: “New Yorkers” means those who live in That Big City Up North. If you call an upstater a New Yorker, he’ll hurt you and I won’t blame him. But I digress.)

But New York and California are the incubators for many of our national problems. Folks talk of street gangs now as if they’re the newest threat to our way of life; they’ve been around New York even before I was born. Illegal immigration used to be a California problem; now it’s even in the Carolinas and yes, the Midwest.

Same thing with some of the laws you used to laugh at. Now you’ll have a problem finding someplace to smoke indoors or make a phone call while driving, and many of those laws started because someone in New York or California complained.

A state with a lot of immmigration — like South Carolina — tends to adopt these laws faster than someplace like South Dakota, which isn’t exactly a hot immigration magnet. Part of it is a natural thing. We California-bred types like our Mexican food, and New Yorkers like the idea that they can call someplace and have a slice of pizza and a bagel delivered at 4 a.m. Except I still can’t find any Mexican food that is even close to the real thing out here, and the 4 a.m.  pizza/bagel runs haven’t materialized yet.

But we’ve got their laws. And we’ve got politicians who think they know what’s good for me better than I do. Something obviously got lost in the translation.

If you want to know the future here in these United States, cast your eyes on New York and California. It’s better than a crystal ball. Just hide your Bladder Buster when you see a cop, and make sure Fido’s paws and tongue stay inside the vehicle at all times.

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The ol’ tried-and-true Facebook worms are still around

Watch out for Facebook weirdness.

From what I get, ol’ Koobface is still around.

An anagram of a popular social media site, this multi-platform computer worm is still hanging around in all its variants and wreaking havoc after all these years.

There are plenty of hoaxes and urban legends circulating around this piece of malware (like the hoary tale that it’ll burn up your hard drive), but there’s enough truth that shows what a contentious bugger Koobface really is.

In a rare show of anger against the folks who produce malware and security threats, the Facebook folks even calling the Koobface gang out. Naming names, all that good stuff.

But Koobface is still around, as you can see by checking the comment dates in this McAfee post. Some things, like pyramid schemes and chain letters, are not going away anytime soon ’cause they’re successful, right?

This came to my attention about a week ago when a friend got word of this creature through his Facebook account. What he got was a link to the Snopes site, and when he forwarded it to me (at my request) I had a look at it and immediately recognized the M.O.

For those who forgot, you might get a provocative-looking picture on your Facebook feed. When you click on it, you’ll be asked to download a viewer for the accompanying video because the one you have is allegedly out of date.

When you click on that, the fun begins.

I experienced something like this a couple of years ago. Like an idiot I clicked on a picture that showed up in my timeline via a friend, a picture that this friend never would have put up in a zillion years. Got the opportunity to download some program called flvdirect.exe — which triggered all sorts of weirdness:

  • The video was automatically sent to many people on my friends’ list.
  • The .exe file to the viewer sat in my /home/download file. I noted the name and ran a Google search. The program in question, flvdirect.exe, is billed as something that would help download torrents but is actually spyware. It’ll do all sorts of nefarious things on your hard drive and it monitors your surfing habits.
  • For the next hour or so, I heated up my high-speed Internet line. Running Google searches on the offending software. Firing instant messages back and forth with a Facebook (actually a real) friend who also got the video — from me. Posting my findings on Facebook. I finally got to bed at 2 a.m., exhausted.
  • My conclusion: Spreading malware sure is hard work.

Myself being the impulsive type, I shut down my Facebook account and started looking for other ways to communicate. It wasn’t until a year ago that I opened another account.

I’m a lot more cautious these days, steadfastly saying no to all those app requests. Third-party applications are the fastest way to screw up your Facebook experience, so I’m keeping my account an app-free one. Every so often when the app requests get heavy I’ll put up an announcement to this fact — a rude one, but not as rude as some I’ve seen:

I stole this off a friend's Facebook timeline; hope she doesn't mind.

With that thought in mind, enjoy your social media. It’s fun, a great time waster and all that. But there’s no reason to let it take your computer over.

Watch out for bugs.

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New quit-Facebook move has wealth envy at its core

There are lots of reasons for a person to want to quit Facebook, but objections to how insanely rich it made its founder isn’t one of them.

But as the social media behemoth prepares to go public and make what could be a record-shattering IPO (that’s “initial public offering” for those of us who put our money in CD’s of the Miles Davis and Willie Nelson variety), folks appear to be storming the exits. There’s even an I’m Not On Facebook Twitter feed and website, though it appears the people behind thee site are more interested in hawking T-shirts than anything else.

But the objection is that Mark Zuckerberg used to be one of the guys; now he’s a porcine one-percenter. He’s committing the grevious sin of making a pantload of money from Facebook.

OK, what’s the problem? More power to him.

I have my own negative feelings about Facebook and did shut my account down for a year before restarting it. It can be a colossal waste of time. By its very nature it shoots your privacy out the window. The user leaves himself to be flamed, cracked, stalked and generally violated with just a few mouse clicks. You have to use filters to screen the good information from the usual junk. Many third-party apps are malware just waiting to happen. And each new innovation puts your life a little more out in the street — like what’s that option that allows you to share everything you read online?

But it’s still fun and somewhat useful. Many of my friends use Facebook as the only way to communicate, eschewing even anachronisms such as email. There are some real blasts from my past among my Facebook friends, including old running mates from decades ago, former co-workers, kinfolks, some old girlfriends (awkward), even an ex-wife (tres awkward). Many of my blog readers come from my Facebook ranks, and the whole thing is good for business. I won’t knock that.

So Mark Z can probably buy WalMart instead of shopping there. Anybody have a problem with that?

Facebook isn’t my go-to social media site, though. Not even close. I spend more time on Twitter than any of the others, and tweeted incessantly during the last few minutes of the Super Bowl (a barnburner of a game — I tweeted that the game was so nerve-racking, if there was a toilet on the 50-yard line the players would be using it). I use Linkedin for professional contacts and get a lot of mileage out of the groups. I enjoy Google+ and picked up some story ideas from Quora.

But come on! So Zuckerberg won’t ever have to work at a WalMart as long as he lives; he might be in a position to buy the whole schmeer. Like who cares? Get a life! He came up with a product that at the time was far better than anything remotely similar (remember how long it took to load a Myspace page?). People like his product. He’s created value, whether real or perceived, and the users number almost into the billions. Apparently he’s doing something right.

I was once accused of wealth envy because my computers run Linux instead of Windows. Ain’t necessarily so. I have no problem with gazillionaire Bill Gates. I just find Linux meets my needs and allows me to really customize my system and use free software. It’s funny hearing some Mac users decry Gates and his billions, though the late Steve Jobs could afford to buy his black turtlenecks by the shipping container. But I digress.

I don’t mind the one-percent gang. I wouldn’t mind working for some of them. With those folks I stand a better chance of making my exorbitant asking price. I won’t have to worry so much about whether the guy is going to vanish come billing time, or whether the check would bounce. Instead, it’s a straight value-for-value transaction, and a rich guy (i’m talking self-made here; I don’t count the trust-fund brats in this equation) would understand this concept better than anybody.

Ditch Facebook because of the malware. Junk it because you don’t like to put your business out on Front Street. Shut it down if you’re wasting time instead of rainmaking. Kill it because it has no value for you. Scrap it because you can’t stand the third-party games, the inane postings, the fact your significant other is making time with a former flame, because those pictures of you lying unconscious in a puddle of what you hope is beer are messing up your chances of a promotion …

But quitting Facebook because it’s printing money for Zuckerberg is the wrong reason. Spin again to find another excuse.

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Who pays attention to endorsements anyway?

A good friend of mine mentioned recently that a couple of legislators we both admire — Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Tim Scott — so far are laying off on endorsing anybody in the Presidential primaries. My friend says it’s a good thing; we don’t need to form yet another bandwagon in this campaign. There are enough of those already, thank you.

My initial choice in the Republican primaries, Herman Cain, threw a major screwball in giving his endorsement. Hey, he’s having too much fun right right now, making the politico-comedic scene with Steve Colbert, to be messing with the campaign lunacy.

A candidate with half a brain (I understand that is a requirement to run for office in some states) would covet the nod from a DeMint, a Cain, or even the freshman Scott.

Politicians are funny about endorsements. When I edited a weekly paper in Arizona, a City Councilman kept bugging me about it during the election season. Somehow or other he got the idea I set the policy there — that privilege usually goes to the guy who buys all that paper and ink, and it sure wasn’t me. But the owner and I were on the same page there, so I got to make the endorsements.

In truth, though, I can’t tell you who really pays attention to those endorsements.

OK, I lied. Maybe I can:

  • The candidates themselves.
  • The ones making the endorsements.
  • The drones.

Of course the candidates are interested in endorsements. They’re in a volatile business, and their fortunes are dictated by public opinion. They’re always checking the wind. A good endorsement from a fellow politician (why did I say wind?) shows the candidate he may be on the right track and wowing the right crowd. And a media endorsement is good, too. As laughably ineffectual as the mainstream media is these days, they still have enough muscle to set policy.

The endorser also has an interest here. To a politician making an endorsement, it can be genuine respect, the making of an alliance somewhere along the line, or a favor to be called later. Like it or not, horse trading is still a big part of politics. And a news outlet has thousands of advertising dollars riding on an endorsement — not just in the political season, but after the votes are counted and the signs torn down.

But that’s small stuff. Why did I mention the drones?

The drone factor is important here. Off the election results over the past couple of decades, they may be in the majority by now. More likely they already are; they only recently discovered voting.

I’d have no problem if these drones (y’all know who you are) merely retired in front of the television, watched the newest hottest reality show, kept up with the celeb du jour, got their news from the National Enquirer or TMZ, and left the voting to those who actually care.

The drones pay attention to such stuff as endorsements, and are more likely to base their vote from an endorsement than a person who actually engages his brain every once in a while.

Here’s the straight stuff: If I vote a certain way because my favorite movie actor or athlete says so, I’m a drone.

If I vote for someone because my union/teacher/boss/spouse/authority-figure-of-choice votes a certain way, I’m another drone.  Taking advice from someone you respect is one thing, but giving that authority figure the pink slip to your vote is something else entirely.

If I vote with an eye toward what I would get out of it and screw the rest of the country, I’m the worst kind of drone.

Please.

Stay home.

Go away.

Better to handle sharp objects than a ballot.

Oh, yes. That newspaper owner I actually saw eye to eye with on endorsements: We both agreed that to make an endorsement was to insult the voter’s intelligence. I did have the privilige of writing the editorial containing our endorsements, too. After listening to all the candidates bugging me for months and stringing them along a little bit, I wrote something like this:

“Here are our recommendations on how you should vote: Make sure the paper ballot is right side up before you punch out your choices.”

Fun days. But my boss wouldn’t let me write anything urging the drones to stay home.

Oh, well. There’s always this election.

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How will the Feds cut health care costs?

I just had to share this. And no, it’s not funny. Not when you consider I’ve been eligible for AARP for four years and am a year away from various senior citizens’ discounts everywhere.

My mom, who is older than I am (obviously!) sent this along via one of those Fw: emails, which I usually don’t mess with. But here it is.

Thanks, Mom. I think.

* * *

Just saying goodbye…

Description: cid:X.MA1.1325340346@aol.com
To help save the economy, the Government will announce
next
month that the Immigration Department will start
deporting seniors (instead of illegal’s) in order to lower
Social Security and Medicare costs.
Older people are easier to catch and will not
remember how to get back home.
I started to cry when I thought of you.
Then it dawned on me … oh, crap …
I’ll see you on the bus!
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Watching the swirling action can be hazardous to your health

Don't forget to close the lid. Guess that means the seat goes down too.

Leave it to the British press to remind us of a dirty little secret — like making sure the lid is closed before you flush.

This is stuff I can’t make up.

According to the Mail Online, flushing releases all sorts of bacteria, allowing it to explode into the air, and the lid is there to block it. Or something.

The Mail quotes microbiology professor Mark Wilcox for the info here:

Flushing an open toilet “… increases the risk of viruses like the winter vomiting bug of transmitting to another person … ‘It is very clear from our work that the lid is there for a reason,’ Professor Wilcox told Mail Online … Professor Wilcox and colleagues from Leeds University conducted a study to see how using a toilet lid could affect the spread of disease, specifically in hospitals … they used a sterilised toilet cubicle and created a ‘diarrhoea effect’ in the bowl using stool samples that had been infected with the hospital superbug C. difficile.”

I guess watching everything swirl clockwise down the drain (counterclockwise in Australia) is one of those behaviors that spreads disease.

I didn’t know that.

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Great jobs for …

This definitely makes for light bathroom reading.

I saw this in the carrel next to me today at the Trident Technical College library, the place which is also known as “my occasional office.”

Gutsy title for the book, “Great Jobs For Film Majors.” Uhh, last I looked, the so-called great jobs are the kind where you ask … c’mon, say it with me now … “Do you want fries with that?”

The book underneath, “Filmmakers and Financing,” is not a whole lot bigger, which may also say something.

Considering this tome was written in 2004 when times were relatively flush, and it likely carries its usual share of academic bloviation and horse dung, that’s still a mighty thin book.

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Japanese mice become winos for research

Scientists at the University of Hiroshima discovered it’s not that hard to teach a rodent the finer points of wine selection.

Here’s the story from some website called io9, and another from Slashdot:
… as the researchers speculate, it might just be the mice liked what they liked, and no amount of rewards or conditioning could persuade them to choose a different wine: More importantly, 2 other mice exhibited lower than 30% concordance, indicating that they were more attracted to the nonrewarded red wine compared with the learned one. This result suggested that the individual mice directed attention to different subsets of volatile components emanating from the rewarded red wine, when they were trained to choose the liquor odor in the Y-maze …
Now, I’m not making any statements of the veracity of this story, but I just can’t make stuff like this up.
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Student opposes homosexuality, is expelled, federal court upholds expulsion

Now … if she was Muslim or Paiute or something like that, would the court have taken this stance?
Or would the judge have bent over backwards to keep her in school?

FOXNews.com – Court Upholds Expulsion of Counseling Student Who Opposes Homosexuality

**facepalm**

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