The IRS warned taxpayers Thursday of a rash of identity theft scams in which thieves try to steal personal information by promising tax benefits or threatening penalties.

The tax agency said taxpayers reported almost 700 attempted identity thefts in May and June alone. It said it has received some 1,600 reports this year.

The most common scams involve e-mails concerning tax refunds or economic stimulus payments, where the sender misinforms the recipients that they must supply personal information to receive payments.

The IRS does not normally send e-mails to taxpayers and does not request security-related personal information, such as PINs, from taxpayers.

In another scam, people have received faxes saying the IRS is updating files and recipients who supply information will receive nominal tax refunds while those who don’t complete the form risk additional taxes.

Companies have also received e-mails asking them to click on a link to download an IRS report on the company. When the link is clicked, “malware” is downloaded that can hijack the victim’s computer hard drive to give the scammer remote access to the computer.

WATCH THOSE MINUTES: If you have ever incurred cell phone fees, you know that they can sting. Depending on your plan, the penalty for going over your minutes can range from 5 cents to 45 cents a minute. One busy month, and those minutes can add up to big dollars.

If you’ve regularly been getting slapped with fees, it’s probably time to change your behavior. From Amy Bickers, associate editor at, here are three ways to avoid cell phone fees:

•Keep track of your minutes. You can set up an online account with your phone carrier. Or check them on your phone, typically by calling the phone company’s automated system.

•Buy text messages in bulk. If you don’t yet have a bulk plan for text messages, it may be time to look into one. Phone companies can charge up to 20 cents a message.

•Look into prepaid services to avoid coverage charges and cancellation fees. With a prepaid service, you can cancel your service without penalties. The added benefit is you aren’t locking yourself into a contract. If you want to switch to another service, it’s easy and free.

From wire reports


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