Nearly everyone knows the deep voice of actor Alan Thicke. Now in his late 60s, the actor many of us loved on the TV sitcom Growing Pains has become the pitch man for a tax relief service called “Optima Tax Relief.” The radio commercials—and the Optima Tax Relief website—feature a very earnest Alan Thicke saying, “Hi folks, this is Alan Thicke. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who owes back taxes, then you’ve heard…the IRS is cracking down this year…”
First off, let me say I don’t agree with Optima’s use of commercials that portray the IRS as evil and Optima as a guardian angel. That, however, is another issue altogether. The problem at hand is that Optima’s advertising has been so successful that the brand is now well-recognized by consumers—and scammers.
Perhaps the surest sign of success is when the scammers realize you’re a big enough name to leverage your reputation. That’s exactly where Optima is now. While Optima Tax Relief may be a legitimate service helping people to deal with tax issues, the “Optima” brand is being used by impostors to lure consumers into giving away their identities.
Here are just three examples from this week’s email inbox. All three have a “from” address of “Optima—IRS Forgiveness Programs.” The real “from” addresses of these emails are really a UK domain name registered to a Canadian with a server located in Kiev. That doesn’t sound good. Neither does this one. The registrant shields his identity with a Panamanian domain protection service for his website in Moscow. If you’d prefer to stick to a US location, no problem. This last one is awaiting confirmation of the domain registrant’s information for CabbageTown, NV. Really, I didn’t make that up.
Obviously, you can’t trust those emails. Put them in junk, delete them, and never look back. And most importantly, do not click the links in the emails. Otherwise, you’ll have far bigger problems than the IRS knocking on your door.