Cybercriminals are ready to pounce on unsuspecting taxpayers with more creative scams and digital traps. With the frenzy of online tax filings and personal information flooding the internet, digital crooks are eager to get their own version of big illegal financial returns.
Last year the IRS estimated a 60% spike in bogus email schemes designed to steal data and taxpayer money. This tax planning season there is already a marked increase in phishing scams.
Here are a few steps you can take to protect yourself during tax time:
Avoid phony IRS calls or actions. The IRS will not do the following:
- Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information
- Call or email you demanding payment. You will receive mail correspondence from the IRS before they contact you via phone
- Require you to give them a credit card number
- Threaten to call your local police department to act against you if you don’t pay
- Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question the tax situation or appeal the amount they say you owe
If you receive phishing calls or have questions about odd requests, we suggest you contact your CPA or accountant. There’s a good chance they are aware of a similar scam.
Don’t get phished.
Phishing scams are the most common type of identity theft that arrive via your email. Here are a few red flags that could indicate a phishing email:
- Emails may look legitimate. Crooks know how to mimic or copy email designs from legitimate sources.
- You may be asked to provide personal, financial, or tax return information
- Phishing emails may have grammatical errors or just seem odd in the way they are written
- Emails may include malicious links to solicit tax or personal information
Pay attention to your password strategy.
As one of the easiest ways to protect yourself, many taxpayers don’t pay attention to having a strong password strategy. Cybercriminals count on you using the same password for multiple accounts. Consider using two-step authentication that requires a security code (sent via text or email). Instead of a password, use a phrase that’s easy to remember and unique.
Install or update your security software.
It’s easy to get lazy or forget to update your security software. Phishing emails are loaded with malware and viruses designed to infect your devices and grab your personal email.
Think before you open your email.
Crooks count on you being lazy or not being aware of what’s happening with your email or digital interactions. Never open attachments from an unknown source. If an email looks odd or doesn’t seem legitimate, it probably isn’t.
If you are the victim of tax fraud or identify theft, don’t wait. Take the next step by visiting the IRS website where you’ll find guidance on how to report the theft and how to complete the IRS Form 14093, the Identity Theft Affidavit.