Tax Season is the Best Time to go Phishing

What is phishing? Besides sounding like something we’d all rather be doing than sitting at work, phishing is an attempted scam trying to obtain other peoples’ personal or financial information such as usernames and passwords, credit card info, or social security numbers. There are numerous ways scammers attempt to phish unsuspecting individuals. Here are some of the more common:

  • Emails with links containing malware
  • Emails with links to fake websites that appear to look real
  • Phone calls asking for personal information using a legitimate business or organization name
  • Spam on social media (Facebook and Twitter mostly) to illegitimate websites that look real

Believe it or not, one of the goals for cyber criminals after they steal your personal information is to file false tax returns. Their main objective is to file a tax return using your information before you have the chance to do so yourself. This is known as tax return fraud. According to Cloudmark Security Blog’s post “The Tax Phishing Season Begins”, tax return fraud was first seen in 2008 and “has reached epidemic proportions in the past few years”. Due to the steady increase in tax return fraud, the IRS has a team of over 3,000 employees investigating identity theft and tax return fraud.
Despite the efforts of the identity theft and tax return fraud team, the IRS sent out more than $3 million in fraudulent tax returns in a single year which cost tax payers about $5.2 billion. When filing a false return, the minimum information that is needed is a name and social security number.
Most cyber criminals can easily find their victim’s name, but when they go phishing they use almost foolproof bait. Most phishermen will lure unsuspecting tax payers by pretending to be the IRS to get whatever information they need. If the victim bites they are caught hook, line, and sinker.
In my opinion, you should be aware of anything “phishy” when you are on the computer. There are always cyber predators out there looking to steal your identity or any financial information they can get their hands on. This happens even more so during tax season since there is a heightened volume of financial related computer users.
The most common tax season scam you need to be aware of is suspicious emails. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was quoted in saying “I urge all taxpayers to be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites”, and “they may be scams to steal your personal information”.
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*If you have any tax related questions, make sure to consult a qualified tax professional.