The good ‘ole cliché is usually “Beware the Tax Man” but in today’s interconnected world, the tax scam is more concerning than the tax person (the cliché is gender specific in its origin), for sure.
As tax season is now in full swing, you will surely be the target of a hacker, phone scammer, phishing campaign or other attempt to get you release private information that could be used for fraudulent purposes.
Common scams include email phishing with links to malicious sites that will install malware on your systems in an effort to obtain private information like social security numbers, account numbers, address verification, confirmation of responses to secret questions and more. Even answering those fun lists on social media sites like Facebook that as you to list out things only you know about yourself are a risk. Social engineering will scrape this information and put it together with other information to gain a more complete picture of you which may be used to open accounts, file tax returns or more.
Experts advise filing your returns as early as possible as a proactive defensive measure. Last year, many fraudulent tax returns were filed and hackers received refunds from the fraudulent filings. The actual taxpayer did not learn this had happened until they filed their return, often in April. Then they learned a return had already been filed in their name. Filing early can prevent that from happening.
With the massive Equifax hack that occurred this past year, experts are expecting that this tax season may see a sharp increase in the filing of fraudulent tax returns. That hack exposed millions of social security numbers to unknown bad actors. Tax season could present the conditions for these leaked identities to be taken advantage of.
Remember that the IRS will never call you or email you asking for payment via phone or by responding to an email or clicking a link to enter payment information. The IRS is very specific in how it communicates with taxpayers. Asking for payment via obscure payment methods or through email will never happen. If you owe the IRS money, they will send you a bill via the US Postal Service. Call the IRS and verify the legitimacy of the bill. Don’t pay it until you confirm it.
If you use a tax preparer, be sure they are informed of any contact you receive as they can help you validate whether or not the contact is legitimate. If you don’t use a tax preparer, practice extreme caution when providing information over the phone or electronically.