Have you missed the April 15th IRS filing deadline? If so, many circumstances allow for a six-month extension. For those who must pay quarterly taxes, the next deadline for those is June 15th. This year, be wary of tax phishing schemes when filing a late return.
In 2018, criminal IRS tax phishing emails increased 60% from the previous year. These schemes were intended to personal data or funds. To protect yourself during tax season, you must know how to identify similar phishing scams and which steps to take if you become a target.
How To Recognize IRS Phishing Scams
Hackers are more likely to target victims during tax season by taking advantage of basic human psychology. These harmful agents prey upon the mindset of taxpayers who expect or rely upon significant tax refunds from the government. Individuals are lured by the promise of a large monetary payment combined with the pressure to adhere to IRS authority. This can quickly cause someone to abandon logic and ignore basic precautions, making them susceptible to attack.
Often, criminals will target individual taxpayers. A common tactic is to send communications that appear to be legitimate and backed by an authority. These communications can be via phony web landing pages, social media sites and email. For example, one new phishing scheme variation directs deposits to a victim’s own bank account. The scammer then reclaims this amount by posing as a collections agency.
Fraudsters may also target businesses and organizations using methods such as sending fake invoices. This common scam asks employees for immediate direct deposits or wire transfers to be re-routed, often with the scammer posing as an executive. This type of scam is known as business email spoofing (BES) or business email compromise (BEC). Employees must remain vigilant to protect sensitive personal and financial information within their organization.
One of the most important things to do to avoid these scams is to verify all URLs included in an email or other communication before clicking on any link. Consider establishing a corporate hotline or clear communication channel for reporting suspected harmful links within your organization. Some companies have even gone as far as implementing a phishing reporting plugin extension directly within their email provider to make this reporting as simple as possible.
What To Do After Being Targeted By An IRS Scam
If you suspect you are a target of an IRS phishing scam, then you must respond quickly. Do not open attachments or click on links received via emails and other digital communications. If an erroneous deposit appears in your bank account, immediately contact your financial institution. Then, be ready to freeze the transaction or the entire account until the situation is investigated.
Reporting threats to the appropriate authorities is the best way to mitigate harm to yourself or your business and protect other people from being attacked. All taxpayers and businesses should report suspected phishing emails and other scams to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, especially if they think their data has been compromised.
Tips For Protecting Yourself During Tax Season
The old adage that “prevention is worth a pound of cure” is especially true when it comes to IRS phishing scams. It is a worthwhile investment to actively protect yourself before an attack impacts you. These tips provide a strong foundation for preventing yourself from falling victim to an IRS scamduring tax season:
- Be cautious of any communication with an individual or group claiming to be an employee of the IRS, particularly after outlandish refunds or strict punishments and threats.
- Remain vigilant in monitoring bank accounts and routinely check for suspicious transaction activity.
- Practice good data security habits by updating security passwords with two-factor authentication.
- Stay informed of modern developments by following recommended practices from the IRS.
Enlist Experts To Stay Informed
To keep yourself or your organization informed of digital security, consider enlisting the support of a team of experts. Our team at Internet Contrasts consists of experienced internet technology services professionals. We can help establish the necessary security infrastructure for your business or organization.