Today has been a day I think it would be safe to say was "interesting" to say the least! So interesting in fact, it even involved talking with two agents from the FBI about an e-mail I received.
Now, how about them apples, huh?
What's this about the FBI, you ask? Well, let me start at the beginning and explain. Best get yourself a cup of coffee to sip on while you read, cause if you've been reading my blog for any length of time now, you know it can get pretty long-winded!
I got an e-mail this morning that announced it was from the good old IRS and gee, imagine this - it was telling me that there had been an error on my last income tax filing and I was due a refund of a whopping big $63.80! Wow! Then this e-mail also told me to "click here" and fill out the information on that page and within 6-9 days processing time, I would receive this refund.
Red flags started popping in my mind immediately for two reasons. One, that I have not worked since 2002 and the last time I filed a federal income tax return was in 2004 because I had to cash in a very small IRA from one of my former employers, so the idea that there was this refund waiting for me to claim it sounded fishy to me. And also, the fact that if indeed I were due a refund from that year, and if the IRS had indeed e-mailed a notice to me, they would have sent it to my old e-mail address because I've only had the one I currently use for slightly over two years but not dating clear back to before April 15th of 2004!
I clicked open the page as directed though just out of curiosity and was really flabbergasted at what information was being requested for me to submit to get this refund - which by that time I was convinced this was phony - a scam. Not only did they want my checking account/debit card information but any credit card data numbers, expiration date and also, that little special code on the back of your card that is next to impossible to read but you have to have it to do any online transactions. And, in addition to that, they wanted my social security number, date of birth as well as -that super secret answer to the big question - what is your mother's maiden name! All things that in the wrong hands could drain one's checking/savings account, create massive headaches with credit card companies and with all the social security personal data, would give a crook the opportunity of a lifetime to set up a means of stealing my identity!
Incredible, really incredible, isn't it?
I didn't even mess around bothering with contacting the local police or the state police - I went straight to the big guys - the FBI. The agent I spoke to advised me not to submit any information, something that was really unnecessary advice on his part to me since I had already decided this was obviously a blatant scheme to help me part company with what few funds I have. He also gave me a number to contact for the Internet Crime Center to verify that this was indeed a scam and then how to report this incident of the e-mail I had received to their online center.
So, if any of you good people reading this entry gets a message via e-mail from the IRS telling you there is an error on your last tax return and you are due a refund, DO NOT, repeat that, DO NOT SUBMIT the information requested in that e-mail, on the website it takes you to! If you do and your bank account is suddenly drained, your credit cards maxed out and you learn someone else is using your name, social security card number - the whole nine yards there, then don't cry about it and say "OH, I had no idea things like this existed!" or "I just didn't think it could/would ever happen to me!"
If you do however, get an e-mail message like this one, run - don't walk - to the phone, call the FBI at your local office and get the number for their Internet Fraud office. Talk to the agent there to verify this is a scam and then, for the love of Mike and Pete put together (as my Grandpa would have said), go to their website and fill out the form to report this as the crime that it is!
The more of us who receive these phony-baloney things like this one or the Nigerian Scam or whatever it may be and report it to the proper authorities, the better chance there is that the people trying to rob us blind can be caught, charged, tried and sent where they belong - straight past GO and directly to JAIL!
Here's the website for the FBI's Internet Crime Center: www.ic3.gov . Pass this information on to anyone you know too who has an internet connection, e-mail and do it before they get suckered in and lose everything - or run the risk of that happening!
Now - in addition to telling you here about this episode today, I have also contacted a local internet news site and spoke to the editor of the site about this issue. She is going to do a special news article on their website about this and how easy it can be for criminals to bilk the honest public in hopes of reaching a few others who evidently don't read the newspaper or watch the news on tv to know and understand and be able to identify properly the things that could serve to destroy one's lifestyle.
So, what do you think now - was my day "interesting?"