Beware of IRS Phishing Scams!

It’s tax time again in the USA and time to be wary of phishing emails, phone scams, and identity theft taking advantage of our annual pilgrimage to pay the tax-piper.  Fortunately, there is plenty of information available to educate yourself and family on how to identify this activity and prevent you and your loved ones from becoming victims. 

The Dirty Dozen

Each year, the IRS complies a list of the top 12 worst tax scams that have been reported.  If you enjoy watching Judge Judy and wondering out-loud “how? why?” then reviewing the Dirty Dozen list is quite entertaining while being educational.  You can view the summary here or the detailed report here.  And if that wasn’t enough to fill up your day, each of the Dirty Dozen scams has an even more detailed report that you can read.

What’s in the reports…below is an thematic overview of the types of scams you can learn about. Remember, that a con-artist can pose as a bank, credit company, tax preparer, software provide, and government agency!  Determined con-artists can make very convincing websites and promotional material hoping you will take the bait.

  • Phishing attacks: fake emails and websites stealing your personal information.
  • Phone scams: persons impersonating an IRS agent on the phone and threatening you to reveal personal information
  • Identity theft: using your information to file a fake tax return
  • Fraud: unscrupulous return preparers taking you for a ride
  • Fake Charities: people masquerading as charitable organizations with promise of a tax deduction
  • Inflated Refund Claims: social word-of-mouth scam to get you to sign a blank return
  • Falsifying Income to Claim Tax Credits: con-artists talk you into a cut…and you get jail

That’s great…but how do you avoid the scams?

Remember, YOU are the front line of defense. Don’t depend solely on your junk-mail filter or anti-virus program to keep you safe.  Here are some safety steps to always take:

  • Never use a work email to subscribe to email lists. These lists are easily compromised and used to source phishing attacks.
  • Be cautious with emails that urge you for immediate action! Social engineering that scares you into action bypasses your logical reasoning.
  • Verify that a sender’s email is indeed from the stated source. It’s easy to fake the Name of an email sender.
  • Don’t open suspicious email. Don’t click on links in emails. Go to Google, type in the name of the agency and enter a site that way.
  • NEVER download and open an attachment from an unknown person. NEVER. That’s a recipe to download malware.
  • NEVER respond to a suspicious email. They’ll just keep sending you more and more phishing/malware attempts.
  • TIP: The IRS will never contact you via email about a tax bill or refund.
  • TIP: The IRS will not call you. They will send you a letter.
  • TIP: Lookup charities on Google before giving up any money.
  • TIP: Lookup up your tax preparer at the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legit!

Great. I’ve been targeted. Now what?

Report it! If you receive a phishing email report it to the IRS directly. Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.  Learn more about self-reporting here. The video below is provided by the IRS to assist as well.

Remember to stay vigilant and cyber safe! Check out our previous articles on cybersecurity and protecting yourself online.  This article first appeared on DynamicCyber.com. Please leave your own cybersecurity tips in the comments field below.

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