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More from the Appeal Newsroom

WASHINGTON ” The Internal Revenue Service today issued a consumer alert regarding a new, two-step e-mail scam that falsely promises recipients they will receive $80 for participating in an online customer satisfaction survey.

In the scam, an unsuspecting taxpayer receives an unsolicited e-mail that appears to come from the IRS. The e-mail contains a URL linking to an online “Member Satisfaction Survey.”

“We have seen many e-mail scams using the IRS name,” IRS Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support Linda Stiff said. “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers through e-mail. Taxpayers should always use caution when they receive unsolicited e-mails.”

In this case, the e-mail notifies the recipient that he or she has been randomly selected to participate in a survey. In return, the IRS will credit $80 to the taxpayer’s account. There are references to the IRS in the “from” line and the “subject” line of the e-mail. The link to the survey and a copyright statement at the bottom of the e-mail also reference the IRS. The survey form features the IRS logo.

In addition to standard customer satisfaction survey questions, the survey requests the name and phone number of the participant and also asks for credit card information.

Once the fraudsters have a name and phone number, they will presumably call the participant and attempt to retrieve other financial information.

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The apparent objectives of this scam are to use the participant’s name and financial data to withdraw funds from the taxpayer’s bank account, run up charges on a credit card or take out loans in the taxpayer’s name.

Tricking victims into revealing private personal and financial information over the Internet, telephone or other means is a practice known as “phishing.”

Taxpayers should be aware that the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail. Additionally, the IRS never asks taxpayers for PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Recipients of questionable e-mail that appears to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mail. Instead, the e-mail should be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 30,000 e-mails from taxpayers reporting almost 400 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 55 different countries, as well as in the United States.

Other fraudulent e-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS Web site and ask for bank account numbers.

Another widespread e-mail scam tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund for them ” frequently $63.80 ” and seeking financial account information. Still another email claims the IRS’s “anti-fraud commission” is investigating their tax returns.

LOS ANGELES ” In a city famous for showing that life’s little problems can be resolved in a 30-minute sitcom, celebrity justice is sometimes just as swift.

Blink-and-you-miss-them sentences this week for Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie have resurrected the question of whether fame provides a soft landing for fallen stars.

On the same day, Lohan got a one-day jail sentence for drunken driving and being under the influence of cocaine, and Richie served the better part of a four-day jail sentence for driving under the influence of drugs in 82 minutes. She never saw the inside of a jail cell.

Were those slim punishments the benefit of fame? The answer is yes and no. Their sentences were consistent with others that occur outside the spotlight, according to legal experts. But high-priced lawyers helped them evade any stronger punishment.

On the flip side, the cost was high in negative headlines, legal bills and career consequences. An actress like Lohan, who had a thriving screen career before she was arrested, may have trouble being insured for future projects. She is also spending time in yet another rehab facility and has admitted she has an addiction problem.

But the impact on others is what worries those involved in the legal system and the treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.

“For the young kids, it sets a bad example,” said Beverly Hills addiction specialist Marty Brenner. “It says if I have enough money and a great lawyer I can get away with anything.”

As for why the young stars get in so much trouble, Brenner said, “I work with a lot of rich people. Their self-esteem is low. They have a lot of anger. They use drugs, alcohol and sex, and they are all crying out for help. But everyone is trying to make money off of them, the agents, the parents.

“I think some of these young starlets also do this to create excitement. They love the limelight. They crave attention, and negative attention is as good as positive attention.”

He suggested that all such offenders be sentenced to a 90-day rehabilitation program, because anything shorter doesn’t work.

Those within the legal system say Lohan and Richie were treated no differently from other drug and alcohol cases that make their way through the courts. In Los Angeles County, jail overcrowding requires that Sheriff Lee Baca use the facilities he has for more serious offenders.

Baca wants inmates to serve their full sentences, Undersheriff Larry Waldie said Friday, but “he does not want to go against what the judges want.”

“He had no choice in this matter,” Waldie said, adding that in addition to Richie, more than 50 women serving time on similar charges were released Thursday.

“The answer is there are too many bad girls and not enough cells,” said Loyola University Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “The scariest thing is that the secret is out that there is no deterrence … everyone in the system has known what’s going on, that people don’t serve much time for DUI. It’s just a big surprise for the public.”

She predicted others arrested for DUI are going to tell their lawyers: “I want the Lohan sentence.”

Prosecutors may respond by overcharging crimes to enable judges to give longer sentences, Levenson said.

She noted that Lohan could have been charged with a felony but that her plea bargain involved only misdemeanors. Richie was a second offender charged with driving under the influence of drugs after motorists reported her driving the wrong way on a freeway. She was arrested after being found stopped in a car pool lane, her vehicle facing the right way.

Both Lohan and Richie fared far better than Paris Hilton, who served some three weeks in jail for a probation violation after pleading no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving.

“Paris Hilton got hit hard by a judge who knew he could use her as an example,” Levenson said.

Attorney Harland Braun, who has represented celebrities on drug- and alcohol-related cases, said the public doesn’t consider how much the stars have to lose.

If they are deemed uninsurable, they will lose acting roles. “If the public gets tired of them, it could really hurt their careers,” he said.

Braun said he represented a high-profile actor with drug problems who could no longer get top roles because of insurance problems.

“He’s now reduced to doing small parts and productions overseas,” Braun said.

He also recently represented actor Lane Garrison, who pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and drunken driving in a crash that killed a teenage passenger, a case that highlights the possible consequences of drunken driving.

Garrison faces a maximum sentence of six years and eight months in prison. Los Angeles County prosecutors have asked for four years and eight months.

“Lindsay Lohan: Pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of being under the influence of cocaine. Pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of driving with a blood-alcohol level above .08 percent and one count of reckless driving.

Sentenced to three years probation, 10 days of community service and a drug treatment program.

“Nicole Richie: Pleaded guilty to misdemeanor driving under the influence of drugs, her second DUI. Sentenced to nearly four days in jail. Served 82 minutes. Also placed on three years probation.

“Paris Hilton: Pleaded no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving. Sentenced to three years probation, alcohol education and fines. Violated probation by driving on a suspended license. Sentenced to 45 days in jail. Released to electronically monitored home confinement after serving just over three days. Ordered back to jail and served 2 1/2 more weeks.

“Mel Gibson: Pleaded no contest to misdemeanor driving with a blood-alcohol level above the limit. Sentenced to three years probation, months of frequent Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and a first-offender program.

“Ty Pennington: Pleaded no contest to driving with a blood-alcohol level above the limit. Sentenced to three years probation, a 90-day alcohol program and a meeting of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

“Eve: The rapper-actress pleaded no contest to misdemeanor driving with a blood-alcohol level above the limit. Sentenced to three years probation, wearing an alcohol-detecting ankle bracelet for 45 days, a three-month alcohol education program, 10 AA meetings.

“Haley Joel Osment: Pleaded no contest to misdemeanor driving under the influence and misdemeanor marijuana possession. Sentenced to three years probation, 60 hours in an alcohol rehabilitation and education program, 26 AA meetings, and fines.

LAS VEGAS (AP) ” Jack Carter, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in Nevada last fall, has endorsed Sen. Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Carter, the son of former President Jimmy Carter, seemed to snub Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for his lack of experience and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for having high unfavorable ratings in polls.

“With Joe Biden, we don’t have to worry about the problems of lack of experience or high negatives affecting our chances in November 2008,” Carter, 60, said in a statement released by the Biden campaign Monday. “I’m very comfortable that he can win.”

Biden called Carter’s support a valuable asset in Nevada and in early nominating state Iowa, “where the Carter name is revered.”

Jimmy Carter is renowned for going from obscurity to becoming the Democratic nominee in 1976 after winning the Iowa caucuses.

Saint Mary’s Hospice Volunteer Training

Six-course training session for individuals interested in working with Saint Mary’s Hospice patients, 1-5 p.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 305 N. Minnesota St.

Class is free, all course materials provided. Pre-registration is required. Call Nancy Mallery at 770-6008.

 

The Han Dunn Carson City US Mint Postcard Collection: A Tribute to Carson City Mint Collector, 7:30 p.m. at the Nevada State Museum. Presented by Robert A. Nylen, curator of history. Free to members; $5 adults, $3 seniors; 17-younger free.

Call 687-4810, ext. 239.

For more area activities, go to http://www.nevadaappeal.com/calendar

Area road work “

– Gas pipeline work continues on the east and west sides of Fairview Drive, from Fifth Street to Butti Way. Intermittent traffic controls for heavy equipment; drive with caution.

– Due to the construction of the new Sheriff’s Administration Building, Harbin Avenue is closed to traffic between Musser and Second streets. This closure will remain in effect for the duration of the construction which is estimated to be completed in September.

For more events in the Carson City area, visit http://www.nevadaappeal.com/calendar