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IRS warning: Rebate scam circulating

WASHINGTON -- Even before Congress passes an economic stimulus package, identity thieves are using promises of tax rebates to trick people into revealing financial data, the Internal Revenue Service warned Wednesday.

Under one scheme, the IRS said, people are receiving phone calls telling them they only can receive a rebate if they provide bank account information for a direct deposit.

The tax agency stressed that it does not collect information by telephone and that no legislation has been enacted that would allow it to provide advance payments to taxpayers .

The House last week approved tax rebates of $600 and $1,200, respectively, for most individuals and couples. The Senate could begin voting on a different proposal as early as today.

The IRS also repeated warnings of e-mails in which people are asked to enter personal information on a form to obtain a tax refund.

A new scam, it said, involves an e-mail notification that a person's tax return will be audited with instructions to click on links to complete forms with account information.

Businesses and accountants also are getting e-mails with instructions to download information on tax law changes. Clicking on these links could download "malware" onto a recipient's computer that gives the scammer remote access to the computer's hard drive.

In another telephone scam, a caller claims to be an IRS employee who says the taxpayer has not cashed a refund check and asks the person to verify his or her bank account number.

The IRS advised people not to click on any link from an e-mail purporting to come from the agency. People receiving questionable e-mails can contact the IRS through phishing@irs.gov.

On the Net: www.irs.gov.

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