The Federal Trade Commission is cautioning consumers looking forward to rebate checks from the government that they may be targets of scammers out to steal their identity. The agency has issued an alert to help consumers avoid this situation.

The schemes work like this: consumers get a call or an e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, or some other government agency, and claiming to need some bit of personal information to process the rebate check. Consumers may be asked to provide their social security number, bank account number, or another piece of personal information that a skillful crook can use to commit identity theft. E-mails often include a link for a consumer to click: that link may take the consumer to an official-looking – but phony – website that is simply phishing for the consumer’s information. Or, the link may take the consumer to a legitimate site but install spyware or some other form of malware on the way.

Neither the IRS nor the SSA collects information about government rebate qualifications by telephone or email. The FTC urges consumers who are contacted by phone or e-mail not to provide any personal information and to report the contact to the IRS at [email protected] or the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

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The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click

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