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Warning: Scam artists want to steal your tax rebate

  • Story Highlights
  • Scam artists posing as IRS agents, authorities say
  • They are calling people and asking for personal financial information
  • IRS will never ask for bank account or similar information over the phone or Internet.
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From Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn
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AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- On the heels of the government's plan to stimulate the economy by sending out special tax rebates, authorities say crooks are posing as officials from the Internal Revenue Service or Social Security Administration.

Authorities are warning the public over a tax rebate scam.

They are calling people and asking for personal financial information so they can "directly deposit" rebate money.

One Texas woman, 69-year-old Edna Lawrence, said she was called at least eight times by a man posing as an IRS agent. She didn't fall for it, and instead notified the state's attorney general about the caller.

"Actually, he was kind of pushy. Basically he wasn't going to take 'no,' and I had to hang up on him," she said.

One of her daughter's friends, however, who received the same type of phone call, believed the caller and lost more than $200, Lawrence said.

"I think it is horrible that anybody -- anybody -- would do that to anyone, because those people are looking forward to that money," Lawrence said.

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued a consumer alert notifying Texans about the new scams. He says economic hard times could get in the way of making good decisions.

"As a result, if people get a phone call or an e-mail saying we can get your money to you even quicker, it causes sometimes people to respond. ... give out information they shouldn't be giving out," Abbott said.

Abbott's office has received more than a dozen complaints from people who have been fraudulently contacted either by phone or e-mail.

In one online variation, individuals around the country have received e-mails purportedly from the IRS instructing them to click on a special attached form to provide personal information. But the e-mails are fake.

Tax scams aren't new. But with rebate checks heading to about 128 million households, this year could be worse than usual.

Kevin Kolbye, an assistant special agent in charge at the FBI said he expects scam artists will be working overtime. They are getting more sophisticated, he said, especially when it comes to online fraud.

"We've had one recently that looked like it came from the director of the FBI. I think they are becoming a little bit more sophisticated, a little better at duplicating either logos or insignias and making the information look more legitimate."

For the record, the IRS will never ask for bank account or similar information over the phone or Internet.

To get the special stimulus rebate, all most taxpayers have to do is file a 2007 tax return.

The IRS has also cautioned taxpayers about the scams, urging anyone who receives a questionable e-mail or phone call to log on to the IRS Web site to report it. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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