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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Does anybody still use snail mail?

My old pal Mr. Zip, from 1963. Does this postal veteran have long to live?

There’s talk about the U.S. Postal service cutting back, as the agency is bleeding money even faster than ever — as if anyone really expects a quasi-government function to pay its own way or something.

It wasn’t too long ago that the postal service was the only real way to send written communications, to transfer money, to receive a package. Maybe it’s creeping geezerhood, but I actually remember those days.

But now some cutbacks are under consideration. Possible scenarios include shutting down some 4,000 post offices or trimming the delivery schedule to just a few days a week. Shoot, if the postal service cuts back, none of the big-name, blue-chip companies are safe. Next we’ll be hearing that Kodak is going Tango Uniform …

… whoops, I forgot.

Like Kodak, the postal service provides a function that, while valued and appreciated, is losing ground to technology. Just as fewer people use film in their cameras these days (or develop that film like I used to), fewer people are really using mail delivery than before.

I’m hardly an example here. I’m one of those folks who will embrace technology but look longingly at the good old days. A high-tech Luddite. But as I examine my own use of the postal service, I can see why it’s losing its hiney.
In a few days I’ll need to swing by the post office and get a booklet of stamps. I usually get a dozen or 15 at a time, and that likely will last a year.

Most months I’ll send one item by mail: My rent check, and that’s only because my landlady is an even bigger Luddite than I am. Hard as I try, I can’t picture her huddled over a computer.

I might send a check to my business bank account via mail, but that’s only because I haven’t mastered the art of online bank transfers yet. Ironically, those instances where I use the postal service are the only times I’ll write a check — some archaic practices belong together.

As far as my other bills — electric, phone, Internet services — those are done online.

Strangely enough, it’s high tech that has me using the postal service more than I’d expect. Whan I order a book through Amazon, it still has to be shipped to me somehow. The cheapest, surest option is still the postal service.

A generation ago, doomsayers predicted the UPS/FedEx mix would kill the postal service, along with some of the vest-pocket courier outfits running around. Didn’t happen, but it didn’t help the mail system any. Further innovations like the FAX machine (does anybody still use those things) and email were likewise seen as a threat to USPS. Didn’t happen, but again didn’t help either.

In a bullfight, one can stick only so many swords, meat forks and Buck knives into the bull’s hide before it weakens and collapses.

Which begs the question: Who will get the ears of the USPS bull?

Or, would anybody really care once we adjust to the loss?

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Talk to me: Do you still use snail mail? If the postal service was cut back like they’re talking, would you care? Use the comments section below.

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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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Gropers needed; apply with government

Still unemployed?

Out of prospects?

Savings about burned through?

Fear not. The TSA is hiring.

Here’s the link, via Low Country Help Wanted in South Carolina. Link may only be good for a short time.

And here’s another look, as seen in the TSA Jobs site. Check out all the goodies, according to TSA:

  • Stability of a Government Job
  • Ensuring National Security
  • Helping People
  • Competitive Pay and Benefits
  • Career Growth Opportunities
  • Diverse Workforce
  • Fast-paced Job

Uhh, they forgot to mention it, but you can handle people in a way that would get you slapped in any other context. So if you’re a real tactile person, apply today.

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USPS to Santa carrier: Lose the suit, keep the beard

Looks like the US Postal service is doing Grinch imitations this Christmas season.

According to Fox News, a letter carrier in Washington has been told his cool red suit has to go.

The official reason is that the Santa suit doesn’t meet Postal Service uniform regulations.

They’re not making him lose the white beard, though. That’s his own, and one can guess he’s had it a while.

For the full story, check out http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/u-s-postal-service-tells-carrier-to-stop-dressing-like-santa.html

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US Asks Scientists To Censor Reports To Prevent Terrorism

Yes, I can see the rationale behind this. Really. Don’t want the bad guys to know certain things. I get it.

But isn’t that terrorism angle overworked just a tad?

In fact, terrorism has become a dandy excuse for the government to dilute Costitutional rights just a bit more, a whack here, a whack there. Government-induced censorship in any form is seldom justified, and never a good thing.

I totally get the rationale. But it’s a real slippery slope that I just don’t feel like skiing on.

The link, from Slashdot: http://rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/JfHsucVKyHY/us-asks-scientists-to-censor-reports-to-prevent-terrorism

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With the time change, confusion reigns

On Sunday morning, mass confusion entered my household, a neat trick given I’m the only human living there. But I literally did not know what time it was.

At 6 a.m. — my normal weekend wake-up time — the clock radio indicated it was 5 a.m. At that hour my brain is usually too squishy to tell the difference, but I checked my cell phone on the night stand anyway. The cell phone had the correct time; 6 a.m.

Merely a prelude to Daylight Savings Time, when most folks in the United States get to play with the hands on their clocks again. Unless your high-tech toys do it for you.

My clock radio is one of those high-tech toys. Twice a year it automatically changes over. The rub is that it makes the fall-back move on the last Sunday in October, when the change used to occur. Used to. Same thing with my desktop computer, which is not connected to the Internet.

Real helpful. Kind of like the federal government.

OK, so there’s no real easy way to adjust the time on that particular model of clock radio unless you have an engineering degree, and it’s only a week until the actual time change. I’ll live. Reckon I’ll just dim the display, adjust the alarm set time (which is much easier), and leave the time be. Everything will be fine next week.

This wasn’t my only run-in with the time change. When I moved from Arizona from California, I dutifully changed over to Mountain Standard Time from Pacific. But what I didn’t realize — no one told me and I didn’t ask — was that Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings and it was on the same time standard as California for the moment. I spent the whole weekend living on the wrong time frame.

Daylight Savings Timec confuses me enough as it is. When I finally adjust, six months have elapsed and it’s time to change everything over again.

Oh, don’t forget to change your clocks this weekend, and prepare to join me in the confusion.

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They’re worried about fake maple syrup

I absolutely must share this. This is great.

Some background: While I’m ensconced here in the South, I have a brother who lives in upstate New York, where it snows a lot. Rick is the family’s token Northerner, and — unlike me — works for the state government. Politically, though, we’re similar, just to the right of Genghis Khan. Mom and Dad are still trying to figure which of us sits further to the right. It’s a close call.

But like me, he notices instances of government waste and, like me, he’s decided it’s better for one’s health to be amused than outraged. And he’s taken to writing about it.

So while the government seems to be going softer on violent crime and forgetting about the things that matter, Rick tells about how they’re cracking down on purveyors of fake maple syrup.

Fake maple syrup. We’re talking about the crime of the century here.

“… maybe he took the jug into the forest and showed it to a grove of maple trees. Anyway, he’s being prosecuted under current laws regarding mislabeling by the Food & Drug Administration. It is a misdemeanor … Schumer and Gillibrand want to make this a Federal felony. Ranking right up there with Madoff, DeLorean, the Five Families and Lee Harvey Oswald. Yessir, they need to save us from crappy syrup …”

Anyway, meet Rick. Read his take on the matter. Read it before breakfast, before you start pouring what you think is maple syrup on your flapjacks.

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