Beware of Internet Scams During Tax Season
We thought it would be appropriate to remind our readers of the possibility of dangerous frauds and scams that occur over the Internet during tax season. You can never be too careful with regard to your home and business at this time of year.
According to the IRS, “phishing” is the top computer scam for tax year 2015. Phishing is the attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money), often for malicious reasons, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication (Wikipedia).
Tax scam victims can find themselves in trouble with the IRS for not filing a proper return after scammers have filed fraudulent returns with stolen personal information. The IRS warns taxpayers to watch out for fake emails or websites that can steal taxpayers’ personal information. “The IRS won’t send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
According to CNN Money, if you get an unexpected email claiming to be from the IRS or a related agency, such as the federal tax payment system, do not reply to the email. Also, don’t open any attachments or click on any links. Doing so can allow tax scammers access to your personal information or download viruses or malicious code to your computer.
The IRS warns of a phony e-mail claiming to come from the IRS that has been circulating in large numbers. The subject line of the e-mail often states that the e-mail is a notice of underreported income. The e-mail may contain an attachment or a link to a bogus Web page directing taxpayers to their “tax statement.” In either case, when the recipient opens the attachment or clicks on the link, they download a Trojan horse-type of virus to their computers.
Malicious code (also known as malware), of which the Trojan horse is but one example, can take over the victim’s computer hard drive, giving someone remote access to the computer, or it could look for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer. The scammer will then use whatever information they gather to commit identity theft, gain access to bank accounts and more.
Lastly, the IRS warns about Return Preparer Fraud. Believe it or not, the IRS says “there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers.” They recommend shopping for a tax professional who has a history in the community.
If you receive a suspicious email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, report it immediately to Phishing@irs.gov.
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