Con artists in Missouri are exploiting consumers' hopes of receiving hundreds of dollars in tax rebates -- proposed under last week's federal economic stimulus package -- in their latest scheme.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) today warned taxpayers that scam artists are contacting consumers at home and claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The con artists tell consumers they need their Social Security and bank account numbers to send their rebate checks.

But this is simply a ploy to steal consumers' identity, FBI officials said.

"They're calling people on the phone and asking for their personal information, and the people are thinking they're going to get some money quicker than they normally would," Special Agent Jeff Lanza, spokesman with the FBI Bureau in Kansas City, told WDAF-TV.

Lanza said four Kansas City consumers have received these calls and his office is worried some unsuspecting taxpayers might fall for this scam.

"It's got credibility because it's been in the news," Lanza told reporters. "Everyone is talking about the rebate. They'll probably get more people to respond because of that."

Lanza, however, said the IRS would never ask consumers for such personal information over the phone or through e-mail. Neither would any other governmental agency.

And Congress has not yet approved the tax-rebate plan.

Consumers who receive these calls should immediately hang up, FBI officials said.

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