WASHINGTON (WTNH) — With the 2018 filing season approaching, the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry are trying to make people aware of email phishing scams that could put your personal information and next year’s tax refund in danger.
According to the IRS, phishing attacks use emails and websites to get personal, tax or financial information by posing as a trustworthy organization. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, and can trick even the most cautious person.
Cybercriminals steal bank account information, passwords, credit cards or Social Security numbers by simply asking for them. Phishing scams can be either phone calls or emails. Some emails will appear to come from those you may know, like a business colleague, friends or relative.
One of the most common phone call scams is the caller pretending to be from the IRS threatening a lawsuit or arrest if a payment is not made right away. Another common ploy used by scammers is to send emails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service, but contain contact number of links to fake websites designed to collect your personal information.
For example, the image below is from a phishing email posing as the IRS with a hyperlink to a fake site. This site asks for your Social Security number and other information where it will be stolen.
The IRS says it’s important to know that their agents will never contact you by email to request personal or financial information. They also don’t call taxpayers with threats of a lawsuit or arrest. If you have any doubt, don’t use hyperlinks. Go directly to the official IRS website; IRS.gov.
Another tip from the IRS is to never open a link or attachment from an email address you don’t know, or are suspicious about. Even if the email comes from someone you know, be cautious. Thieves may be spoofing the address and slightly changing the text just enough to not even notice.
Use security software to protect against malware and viruses. Some software can help identify cybercriminals.
The IRS also advises using strong passwords to protect your online accounts. Each of your accounts should have it’s own unique password. Criminals count on people using the same passwords for all accounts, giving them access to multiple accounts. Experts recommend creating a password with a minimum of ten digits. It should include letters, numbers and special characters.