With tax season upon us, identify theft is on the rise and more hackers are turning to phishing scams to steal valuable information. According to the IRS website: “The Internal Revenue Service renewed a consumer alert for e-mail schemes after seeing an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents so far this tax season.” With cyber criminals and scammers getting smarter, protecting your identity is now more imperative than ever.
These scams are coming through in the form of emails, phone calls, text messages, and paper mail; all impersonating the IRS. One way to recognize a scam is by knowing the IRS will not contact you via email, text messages, or social media asking for access to personal accounts. If the IRS contacts you, it will be through traditional mail with an official letter. If you suspect you or your business have been contacted by an IRS impersonator, you are to report such incidents to the IRS here.
E-filing is also becoming a way for cyber criminals to gain access to personal information. According to CNBC, “An audit released February 24th by Internet security nonprofit the Online Trust Alliance found that 46 percent, or 6 out of 13 tax software websites in an IRS program, failed cybersecurity protocols.” If you are e-filing this year, the website should be encrypted using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) technology. This is typically indicated by a padlock icon displayed at the beginning of the URL. This is an extra layer of security to protect your information running between their server and your computer.
Protect yourself and your business from fraudulent tax scams by reporting any suspicious communications and by ensuring you send any sensitive information over a secure network on an encrypted site. Never file taxes online using free Wi-Fi in a public area. If you do receive a suspicious email from the IRS, do not open the email or any attachments sent. Do not give out any personal information over the phone or through a text message. The deadline to file taxes is April 15th.