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IRS warns of fake e-mail claiming to help wildfire victims

  • Story Highlights
  • E-mail claims to be from the tax agency, asks for donations for wildfire victims
  • Donation link takes people to a fake site that asks for their account numbers
  • The scammers can then launch a number of identity theft ploys
  • Spokeswoman: The IRS as a rule does not send e-mail
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By Lisa Desjardins
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new e-mail scam is using last week's wildfires in California to prey on people with generous hearts.

The IRS calls the scam an "opportunistic attempt to profit at the expense of the victims" of the wildfires.

The Internal Revenue Service is warning Americans about an e-mail hoax that claims to be from the tax agency and asks for donations for wildfire victims.

Anyone who clicks on the donation link is taken to a fake Web site that asks for the person's bank account numbers.

Instead of using the numbers for charity, the scammers can launch a number of identity theft ploys.

"This is very reprehensible," IRS spokeswoman Michelle Lamishaw said Friday.

"It's an opportunistic attempt to profit at the expense of the victims of these wildfires as well as the generosity of people who would like to help them."

The agency was tipped off by taxpayers and agency employees who received the e-mail and knew it was a scam, she said.

The scam has "popped up both on the East Coast and on the West Coast, so we imagine that it's a fairly large number of e-mails that went out" she said.

The e-mail uses the IRS logo and Lamishaw called it sophisticated, with few clear signs that it's a hoax. However, the e-mail itself is a clue.

"The IRS as a rule does not even send e-mails," she said, "so if something appears to come from the IRS it's 99 percent sure that it's a scam."

The fires are blamed for 14 deaths and charred more than 508,000 acres, destroying about 1,600 homes. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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