Current Tax Season Scams

Tax season is now in full swing so it’s important to make sure you get a refund and not ripped off. Scammers are incredibly sneaky when it comes to exploiting people’s fears and tax-induced anxiety makes the IRS a perfect cover for shenanigans. Accordingly, we thought it beneficial to address a few common techniques (recently compiled by Infosec and reported on in the Washington Post) criminals currently employ to help ensure you know what to look out for this tax season.

Phishing

This approach is all bait—where scammers send seemingly legitimate emails that lure victims into downloading malicious software via link in order to gain access to their devices, and subsequently, their information. These emails can be disguised in a variety of ways. During tax season, it’s common for bogus emails to masquerade as requests to HR personnel from corporate big wigs regarding sensitive W-2 information. Or by pretending to be tax specialists like H&R Block, offering too-good-to-be-true deals on tax preparation services, complete with convincing logos and graphics. Remember to check the email address a strange email is sent from. Often, what you see is not the real email address. Hovering your cursor over the visible address of a suspicious email can reveal its identity, which will appear as a string of bizarre character combinations. This is more difficult on a phone but clicking the Forward button can also reveal a scammer’s clandestine identity.

Phone Scams

Today’s technology makes email scams highly lucrative, but scammers aren’t afraid to try and contact you by phone either. These scams can be easier to spot, however. The IRS will send letters to you if there is an issue. They will not call you to demand payment and they certainly will never ask you to pony up in the form of gift cards. Moreover, any threats to have the police or some other agency come to your home unless you pay should also be treated with extreme skepticism. If you happen to receive one of these calls, try calling the number back. If the call cannot be completed, it’s probably a scam (crooks can alter caller IDs to appear legitimate so don’t be fooled). You can also contact your local IRS office to ease your mind or review how the IRS contacts taxpayers via their website.

Tax season can be a hectic time and there are some shady individuals out there that know how to take advantage of it. But being informed is the best way to spot common attacks and will save you a serious headache in the long run. Don’t fall prey to scammers. Learn when and how to put the brakes on fishy phone calls and emails.

For more information, be sure to familiarize yourself with the IRS’ Tax Scam/Consumer Alerts.

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