4 Tips to Protect Yourself from IRS Scams and Tax Fraud
The tax season is here and it's time to get your 'file' on. Keep your wits about you this season because cybercriminals are waiting to take advantage of you. These scammers use this time of year to commit identity theft and tax fraud and they use several methods to steal your information. Here is a list of ways that cybercriminals steal your identity and three tips to protect yourself this tax season.
Here's how cybercriminals try to steal your information:
Email Phishing. I'm constantly warning people about phishing email scams, where you receive an email from a cybercriminal disguised to look like it's from a legitimate company. Cybercriminals use this technique during tax season, too. You could receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, but it's actually from a criminal It could contain links that take you to websites where they'll collect your personal information, and may infect your computer, smartphone or tablet with a virus.
Phone extortion. If you've been receiving phone calls that are from the IRS with scary messages about them arresting you and taking legal action against you, those are very likely cybercriminals. They hope you will panic and give them your personal information in hopes of staying out of jail.
Filing a Fake Tax Return. Cybercriminals will use your information to file your tax return and take your refund. If you get a rejection letter from the IRS when you file your taxes, saying you've already filed your return, immediately call the IRS.
Here's what you can do to protect yourself:
1. Verify the identify of the person contacting you. If you are contacted by anyone claiming to be with the IRS, call them back to ensure that the phone call or email came from them. If you really owe money to the IRS, they will contact you by mail in order to include a payment form, so any other method of contact should set off alarms.
2.Sign up ID and credit monitoring services. As I often suggest to you, it's important to have strong internet security software protecting your tech gadgets, and strong passwords to keep cybercriminals out. You should also think about signing up with a company that monitors your credit and ID. You can sign up with a company like LifeLock, use the free App Credit Karma, or use the services of your credit card company or your bank.
3. Don't share your identity or personal information with anyone. Unless you can confirm that you are really chatting with an agent of the government for legitimate purposes, there is no need to share your information with anyone. The best way to make sure you're talking with a legitimate IRS agent is to call them.
4. Spread the word. The more people share information about the latest scams, the less people will fall for cyber crime.Talk to your friends. Tweet it. Post to your social networks. You just might help someone you care about avoid falling for a scam.
Have you been a victim of an IRS or Tax scam? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share this information with everyone.