In an apparent scam that packs a double whammy, the IRS is being impersonated in a spoofed e-mail requesting donations for the recent Southern California fires.

From the IRS press release:

The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for a new e-mail scam that appears to be a solicitation from the IRS and the U.S. government for charitable contributions to victims of the recent Southern California wildfires.

In an effort to appear legitimate, the bogus e-mails include text from an actual speech about the wildfires by a member of the California Assembly.

The scam e-mail urges recipients to click on a link, which then opens what appears to be the IRS Web site but which is, in fact, a fake. An item on the phony Web site urges donations and includes a link that opens a donation form which requests the recipient’s personal and financial information.

It appears that in this scam, people are being solicited for both money and their personal information.

The IRS is warning that this is likely to make them a victim of identity theft, and that providing any personal and financial information is likely to result in a person having a lot more money taken from them than they intended to give:

The bogus e-mails appear to be a “phishing” scheme, in which recipients are tricked into providing personal and financial information that can be used to gain access to and steal the e-mail recipient’s assets.

The IRS also believes that clicking on the link downloads malware, or malicious software, onto the recipient’s computer. The malware will steal passwords and other account information it finds on the victim’s computer system and send them to the scamster.

Generally, scamsters use the data they fraudulently obtain to empty the recipient’s bank accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name or even file fraudulent tax returns to obtain refunds rightfully belonging to the victim.

If you happen to run into one of these spoofed e-mails, here is something you can do to help the IRS and people, who might fall for this:

Recipients of the scam e-mail can help the IRS shut down this scheme by forwarding the e-mail to an electronic mail box, phishing@irs.gov, using instructions found in “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes” on this site. This mail box was established to receive copies of possibly fraudulent e-mails involving misuse of the IRS name, logo or Web site for investigation.

IRS press release on the latest spoof using their name, here.

Fraudsters have been using the IRS name to scam people on an ongoing basis. Frequently, the name of other government agencies are used as a badge of authority by scammers, also.

Other posts regarding this phenomenon can be seen, here.

Governor Schwarzenegger in California stated that there will be zero tolerance for fraud in wake of the fires. His press release, along with numbers to report suspected fraud can be seen, here.

Sadly, whenever disaster strikes, scammers of all sorts pop out of the woodwork to steal money from people.

In case you don’t have time to link to the press release, the number is 800-952-5210.

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