SCAMS TARGETING TAXPAYERS
The IRS has a seen a surge in cybercriminal swindles directed at consumers. If you protect yourself against these unscrupulous schemes, your identity and tax return will be safer and more secure.
IRS-IMPERSONATION PHONE SCAMS Callers claiming to be IRS employees – using fake names and phony IRS ID numbers – may ring you and insist that you owe money and it must be paid as soon as possible through a gift card or wire service. If the call is not picked up, the scammers often leave an emergency callback request message. The real IRS will not call you and demand immediate payment; in general, it will mail you a bill if you owe money.
MARKED INCREASE IN PHISHING, EMAIL AND MALWARE SCHEMES Cyber-criminals will try to get you to do something so they can steal your personal information. Watch out for unsolicited emails, text messages, social media posts or fake websites that may prompt you to click on a link or to share valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, online thieves can pilfer funds and/or commit identity theft. And unfamiliar links or attachments can contain malware – viruses, spyware and other unwanted software that gets installed on your computer or mobile device without your consent – which can infect your computer files if opened.
FRAUDULENT TAX RETURNS The FTC strongly recommends trying to file your tax return as soon as possible. The IRS only accepts one tax return per Social Security number. If the file is yours and it’s in early, it becomes impossible for a fraudster to submit another return with your personal information. It’s also important to always use smart practices with your personal information. Remember to only share your Social Security number when it’s absolutely necessary. Check your credit report regularly for shady activity, and never throw papers with critical information – like your Social Security number or bank account information – in the trash. It’s best to shred all paper containing personal data.
TAX PREPARER FRAUD The overwhelming majority of tax preparers provide honest services, but some unsavory individuals may target unsuspecting taxpayers and the result can be refund fraud and/or identity theft. The IRS reminds anyone filing a tax return that their preparer must sign it with their IRS preparer identification number.
TAKE ACTION AND STAY CYBER SAFE:
KEEP ALL MACHINES CLEAN Having updated software on all devices that connect to the internet is critical. This includes security software, web browsers and operating systems for PCs and your mobile devices. Having current software is a strong defense against viruses and malware that can steal login credentials or use your computer to generate spam. LOCK
DOWN YOUR LOGIN Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
MAKE BETTER PASSWORDS If your passwords are too short or easy to guess, it’s like giving a cyber thief your banking PIN. Longer passwords and those that combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols provide better protection.
GET SAVVY ABOUT WI-FI HOTSPOTS Public wireless networks are not secure. Cybercriminals can potentially intercept internet connections while you are filing highly personal information on public WiFi. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT Links in email are often the way bad guys get access to your personal information. If it looks weird, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete.
THINK BEFORE YOU ACT Be leery of communications that implore you to act immediately – especially if you are told you owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly.
FILE YOUR TAX FORMS ON SECURE HTTPS SITES ONLY.
ASK IF YOUR TAX PREPARATION SERVICE HAS CHECKED FOR MALWARE ISSUES.