Tax Season is Also Phishing Season

By John Kipp, Chief Operating Officer at Sera-Brynn

The recent TurboTax dust up may be behind us now, but that doesn’t mean the threat to your sensitive tax data went with it.

Tax fraud is a multi-billion dollar business. In fact, for 2013, the IRS estimates it paid out just over $5 billion in fraudulent returns.

Scammers are working 24/7/365 to come up with new ways to get a piece of that $5 billion pie. While these threats are ever present, unfortunately the IRS’ ability to detect and prevent fraud continues to be a few steps behind.

A sign you have already been targeted by these scammers is if you get a notice from the IRS indicating someone has already filed using your information. Another sign is if the IRS informs that you were paid wages by an employer you never worked for.

So what’s a tax payer to do?

First: If you think your identity has been compromised, the IRS has online resources to help.

You can also contact the IRS Identity Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

In order to reduce the chances of becoming a target in the first place, you’re going to have to be proactive and vigilant.

Be on the lookout for one of the more common techniques used by scammers called phishing.

Phishing is when scammers send fake emails that appear to be from the IRS.

They have a link somewhere in them that the scammers would really like for you to click on.

Clicking on the link will install malware on your computer which will then look for tax information to steal and send back to the scammer. If something about an email doesn’t seem quite right, trust your instincts and don’t click on those links.

The IRS does keep a record of known phishing email examples you can become familiar with in order to help you spot them.

Scammers are also aware that they have to beat you to the punch. They’re going to try to get that fraudulent return turned around soon as possible. Aside from phishing, here are some other techniques they’ve been known to use over the years.

Everything a scammer would need to file a fraudulent tax return was stolen in the Anthem data breach, but even if you weren’t an Anthem customer, don’t wait until April 15th to file your taxes. Be smart about protecting yourself and your data.

Questions? Contact us.