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Phishing

Two days ago, I got a phone call at my home number. The caller ID said “unknown” (not all that unusual). It was a heavily accented Indian male, and it sounded like he was in a busy call center (in hindsight, I don’t know if that was real or a soundtrack).

“I’m calling from the US Department of [unintelligible] about your tax refund. Tracy is supposed to get a refund of approximately $1000. Can I confirm your street address of …[my actual street address]…?”

I even asked him to repeat the department he was from, but it was still unintelligible.

Right off the bat:

  • It’s January. I haven’t filed my 08 taxes yet. And when I do, I typically get my refund within weeks (i.e., May, or possibly June).
  • I am well aware of my tax situation from 07; everything that was supposed to happen tax-wise for 07 was concluded long ago.
  • He specifically asked for my wife by her maiden name.
  • He repeatedly would not give a distinct US government agency name.

He wanted me to confirm my address. Without confirming anything, I asked why. He said that “we need to direct deposit this refund, so we need to confirm your address, bank account, and routing number.”

What on earth does my street address have to do with a direct deposit to my bank?

Answer: nothing. There’s no reason to ask for this information. Hence, if there was any doubt in my mind that this was a phishing expedition, his statement about needing my address confirmed it for me.

At this point, I literally laughed (I couldn’t stop myself) and said, “I don’t think so. Good luck!” and hung up. I’m now watching my bank activity and whatnot quite closely.

Were it not the wrong time of the year, this could be a fairly successful scam for those who are not savvy to this kind of thing. If you get this fake “IRS refund” call, be aware that when you filed your 1040, you indicated all relevant information about how to receive a refund (either snail mail a check to you or you had to have provided all the relevant bank information for direct deposit). Specifically: the IRS will not cold-call you to get information about how to send you a refund; they already have it.

My rule of thumb: always, Always, ALWAYS be extremely suspicious if someone cold-calls you and asks you to confirm your personal information. Even — or especially — if you think you already have a business relationship with whomever you think is calling (remember that it is trivial for scammers to forge what comes up on the caller ID screen for both land lines and cell phones!).

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 12, 2008 9:19 AM.

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