CHARLESTON -- Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office is warning West Virginians about a scam that many have received in their e-mail inboxes.

The official looking e-mail purports to be from the Internal Revenue Service and advises the consumer that they have a refund coming to them. The consumer is told to click a link that will take him to the form needed to claim his refund. The form will ask the consumer to provide personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers.

This type of scam, called "phishing," is used to obtain personal information from a consumer so that the scamster can steal the consumer's identity.

Variations of this scam have been around since 2005 when scamsters discovered a security flaw in the IRS Web site. This flaw enabled the scamsters to send consumers to the official IRS Web site, and then redirect them to the scamster's site.

Now that the security flaw in the government Web site has been corrected, potential victims are taken directly to the phony site.

"Consumers should remember that the I.R.S. will not contact them by e-mail regarding a refund," McGraw said in a press release.

New security freeze legislation went into effect in West Virginia in June of this year. The new law allows consumers to freeze their credit reports. Once a consumer places a freeze on his credit report, credit reporting bureaus are prohibited from releasing all or any part of the consumer's credit report or any information derived from it without the express authorization of the consumer.

"Any consumers who have responded to this phishing scam should contact my Consumer Protection Division and request information on how to freeze their credit reports," McGraw said.

To contact McGraw's Consumer Protection Division, call 304-558-8986 or 1-800-368-8808 or e-mail consumer@wvago.gov.

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