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Tax Scams and Darwin Awards

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February 27, 2002

The newest email warning circulating purports to come from the Michigan Department of the Treasury and tells taxpayers to beware an email scam supposedly originating from the Internal Revenue Service.

"Some taxpayers have received an email from a non-IRS source indicating that the taxpayer is under audit and needs to complete a questionnaire within 48 hours to avoid the assessment of penalties and interest.

"The IRS does not conduct e-audits, nor does it notify taxpayers of a pending audit via e-mail. This email is not from the IRS. Do not provide the requested information," we're told. "This may be an identity-theft attempt."

If you've ever forwarded on an email, and learned later it was nothing but an urban legend, take some comfort in knowing the Michigan Department of Treasury has joined you in falling for a phony warning.

David Emery, host of the Urban Legends website, states the following: "According to an IRS spokesman, this erroneous warning went out after the agency discovered a Website asking users to fill out a form with personal information… it was subsequently determined to be a "joke" with no criminal intent."

This email warning, however, does provide some useful information. Don't give out personal information via email to anyone… ever! If a legitimate company needs your personal information, and you choose to give it to them, make sure the information you're sending is going to who you think it's going to.

There are, however, plenty of scams out there, and some involving taxes. The Internal Revenue Service has issued a press release warning taxpayers "not to fall victim to a scam offering them refunds of the Social Security taxes they have paid during their lifetimes. The victim pays a 'paperwork' fee of $100, plus a percentage of any refund received, to file a refund claim with the IRS."

If you think you're going to get your social security taxes back any time soon, think again, as the IRS says this email is "nothing more than a hoax." Anyone who pays attention to national politics, of course, probably realized that right away. Legislators are dipping into the so-called "Social Security Lockbox" so deeply that you have to wonder if ANYONE will ever get even a portion of their Social Security taxes back, ever.

For some reason, thinking about the IRS always leads me to thinking about the Darwin Awards, that tongue-in-cheek organization that honors those who "remove their genes from the gene-pool" in spectacularly stupid ways.

The official Darwin Awards website (there's a link from the Urban Legends website) offered the following gem in their collection of personal anecdotes.

"I own a family entertainment center with arcade and video games. We occasionally replace out-of-date games, and dismantle the old ones into pieces small enough to toss in the dumpster out back.

"One day I gave our two intrepid game room employees, nicknamed Podunk and Donut after their radio call signs, the task of destroying two outmoded games. The first game was sent to Atari heaven with no fuss, thanks to a 5-pound sledgehammer. The second game was more obstinate. The boys broke the handle of the sledgehammer against it.

So Podunk and Donut decided to heave heavy cinderblocks at it. But that only succeeded if you consider broken cinderblocks a success. They tried ramming the game with a car, which did little but damage the vehicle’s front end. Brute force was getting them nowhere fast.

In the interest of safety, speed, efficiency, and a minimum of wear and tear on their tools, they decided to burn the game down.

Podunk filled the interior of the game with fumes from an aerosol can, while Donut manned the cigarette lighter. You can guess the rest. Both employee’s sustained second degree burns to their arms and faces, and the game cabinet is still alive and well.

Now the boys have new names: Regular and Extra Crispy"

 

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Landon Otis

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urban legends, tax scams, Darwin Awards

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