Simple Cybersecurity Tips for Staying Safe Online During Tax Time.
Monday, May 17th — the current deadline for filing your taxes is right around the corner. This is also the heightened time of the year for cyber thieves.
Protect yourself from a range of cyber crimes by taking the following precautions:
Having updated software on all devices that connect to the internet is critical and is a strong defense against viruses and malware that can steal login credentials and spam.
Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available. This includes biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device.
Use a combination of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
Public Wi-Fi is not secure and is a heavy target for cyber criminals.
Links in emails are often the way bad guys get access to your information. If it looks weird, even if you know the source, it's best to delete.
Be leery of communications that implore you to act immediately, especially if you are told you owe money to the IRS.
You can tell you’re connected to a website with an HTTPS connection if the address in your web browser’s address bar starts with “https://”. You’ll also see a lock icon, which you can click for more information about the website’s security.
In the latest twist on a scam related to Social Security numbers, scammers claim to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s SSN. It’s yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails.
- Even when the filing deadline has passed, scam artists remain hard at work, and the IRS today urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a spring surge of evolving phishing emails and telephone scams.
The IRS warns the public about a new twist on the IRS impersonation phone scam whereby criminals fake calls from the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
- IRS, Security Summit Partners warn of new twist on phone scam; crooks direct taxpayers to IRS.gov to “verify” calls
- IRS Warning: Don’t be a victim of "ghost" tax return preparers
- IRS, Summit Partners warn on tax deadline scams, "IRS Refunds" email
- Scam Alert: IRS urges taxpayers to watch out for erroneous refunds; Beware of fake calls to return money to a collection agency
The IRS warns taxpayers to avoid unethical tax return preparers, known as ghost preparers. A ghost preparer is someone who doesn't sign tax returns they prepare. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a quick profit by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.
The IRS and Security Summit partners today warned the public of a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.
A sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be IRS employees, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a gift card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
Some thieves have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters don’t screen calls for validity. For details see the IRS video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service.
Limited English Proficiency victims are often approached in their native language, threatened with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams. Note that the IRS doesn't:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
- Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
- Demand payment without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Phishing (as in “fishing for information”) is a scam where fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity.
The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. IRS doesn’t require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. Beware of this scam.
Variations can be seen via text messages. The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS website. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” These emails are not from the IRS.
The sites may ask for information used to file false tax returns or they may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
- Consumer Alert: IRS Warns Taxpayers, Tax Pros of New Email Scam Targeting Hotmail Users
- IRS Warns Seniors to Beware of Calls by Criminals Impersonating the IRS
- Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2017 Filing Season
Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at phishing at irs dot gov
For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing webpage.
Would you like to know more about...
Want to earn rewards each time you shop?
Receive points for StonehamBank Visa® Debit Card transactions that can be redeemed for merchandise and travel.