Filing your taxes online comes with potential security problems. My job as an expert in all things online-security is to spell out what these online tax scam risks are and how to avoid them. There were billions of fraudulent refunds that the IRS discovered for just 2012.
Both consumers and business owners (small to medium) are being targeted by hackers during tax time. Following are tax time scams that are related to online filing:
Phishing. If you get an unsolicited e-mail that seems to be from the IRS or similar, requesting personal information or claiming you’re being audited, it’s time to smell a big rotting phish. The IRS will never contact you via e-mail or social media tools.
Report phishing e-mails (those that want you to click on a malicious link, or a link that will take you to a site that will then download a virus to your computer, or a site that will lure you into revealing private information) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The fake IRS agent. Crooks will pose as IRS agents and contact you by e-mail or phone. They’ll already have a few details about you, probably lifted off your Facebook page, using this information to convince you they’re the real deal. If you sense a scam, go to IRS.gov/phishing.
The rogue tax preparer. It’s best to use a reputable tax return service, rather than an independent-type preparer. After all, some of these preparers have been known to charge extra high fees for getting you a bigger return, or steal some of your refund.
Additional Tips for Online Tax Time Scam Protection
File early. The sooner you file your tax return, the less likely you’ll face an attempt to get suckered into a scam.
Protect your data. From the moment they arrive in your mailbox, your personal information (financial institution numbers, investment records, SSN, etc.) must be secured.
Chuck the papers. Opt for electronic statements to be received via e-mail to eliminate paper statements coming into your mail box where thieves could get at them.
Use a clean computer. Make sure that the computer you use is not infected or compromised. The operating system and browser should be updated. It should have comprehensive, up to date security software.
Follow these guidelines and you won’t have to deal with online (or offline) tax time scams.