Scammers continue to evolve their techniques to defraud you. Phishing topped this year’s IRS Dirty Dozen scam list. And, with the recent passage of the most significant tax changes in the U.S. in more than 30 years, scammers have a fresh opportunity to exploit or confuse you about the changes and convince you that you’ve done something wrong and need to take “action” right away.
The non-profit Center for Cyber Safety and Education offers five ways you can outsmart the criminals:
- Phishing attempts can occur via email, phone, text, social media or Skype-like apps. Report any phishing activity to email@example.com. Here are red flags that tell you the message is fake:
- A strange address you don’t recognize in the “from” or “cc” fields
- The message contains suspicious links and urges you to click on them
- The greeting is generic rather than personalized with your name
- Misspellings and/or grammatical errors in the message itself
- The message contains a deadline and/or a threat (of fines, arrest, license revocation, deportation, etc.)
- Never text or email any Sensitive Personal Information (SPI) to your tax preparer. Always give it to them encrypted on a thumb drive (BitLocker is a good encryption tool for Windows, and FileVault is for Mac). Or, give it to them verbally – either over the phone or in person. As the purveyors of sensitive information such as your social security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and account passwords, they are increasingly being targeted.
- Monitor your bank and credit card accounts closely and check your credit report regularly so you can catch any unusual activity, including unexpected deposits. Given the Equifax breach last year, criminals could have your social security number and use it to file a fake return. It is a good idea to file your return as early as possible (beat them to it), and always report any suspicious activity immediately.
- Download the IRS2Go app to track the status of your return with the IRS directly. This way, you’ll have accurate, real-time information from the IRS itself, which will keep you from falling for false claims from criminals.
- Always follow basic internet safety practices, including changing your passwords regularly. This will reduce your risk every day of the year.
About Center for Cyber Safety and Education
The Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), is a non-profit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships, and research. For more information, you can visit www.IAmCyberSafe.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Facebook @IAmCyberSafe and on Twitter @ISC2Cares.