Tax season is stressful enough on its own, but phishing scams and identity theft can make filing your taxes a nightmare. There is now more time for scammers to craft their tools with the extended tax deadline. Scammers benefit from the confusion around taxes, and many fraudsters simply use classic tactics for phishing and identity theft. Still, the constant evolution of tax season scams means that everyone needs to stay on their toes. COVID relief, unemployment, complex financial situations, and extended filing deadlines can give scammers an opportunity to catch taxpayers unaware, but these tips from your managed IT services provider can help you stay safe.
Keep Watch for Tax Season Scams Every Year with Tools from Your Managed IT Services Provider
Although scammers constantly evolve and update their strategies, there are a few perennial favorites that scammers use to gain financial information and sensitive personal data. Employers themselves often become targets, with scammers impersonating HR staff or other employees seeking copies of W-2s. Some of these scams might state that the IRS is behind in processing so that they need the W-2 info to file taxes early, or that some COVID-19 related tax break or credit is due to expire and they’ll miss it if they don’t get the taxes done immediately. If these W-2 forms get into the wrong hands, scammers may either sell the information or file taxes as the employees. By filing taxes and claiming a massive refund, scammers have a shot at a huge payoff — and the victims of identity theft have to sort things out with the IRS.
This Year’s Challenge: Avoiding E-Filing Scams
The COVID-19 pandemic has added all kinds of complications to everyday life, and tax season is no exception. E-filing scams are huge this year, and scammers are using email to deceive their targets and acquire personal information. Many of these emails state that taxpayers must provide their driver’s license info, social security number, e-file identification number, and other private data to receive their refund or stimulus check.
Another tax season scam is the request to ‘verify’ a bank account via a link from an email pretending to be from the IRS or their bank. Financial uncertainty and stress can make taxpayers more willing to go along with these phishing scams, which is why an understanding of these tactics and a healthy sense of skepticism are vital.
Tips from Your Managed IT Services Team
How can you keep yourselves (and your employees) safe from scammers this tax season? There are a few ways for employers, individuals, and professionals in managed IT services to stop scammers in their tracks:
- Think before you click. While it may be tempting to reply to an official-looking email when your refund is on the line, think twice before clicking on any links, opening suspicious-looking emails, or handing out personal information. Phishing scams can do serious damage.
- Contact those who request sensitive information at a known email address or ‘good’ phone number. Even though it may seem like your accountant is asking for W-2s or banking info via email, you should call them to confirm. It may just be a scammer impersonating them with a spoofing attack.
- Stay secure online. Always use secure connections, up-to-date antivirus protection, and appropriate firewalls when transmitting sensitive data online. This includes filing your taxes!
- When in doubt, contact your managed IT services provider or the IRS. Scammers become more advanced each year, and it can take an expert to spot potential attacks. The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration have avenues to report potential scams and phishing attacks, and taxpayers should reach out to these agencies (and their MSPs!) to report attempted scams.
Need Technical Support? Choose Howard Tech Advisors, a Thrive Company
The team at Howard Tech Advisors is committed to providing managed services and customized IT solutions to our clients in Howard County, Baltimore, Columbia, and Ellicott City, and we’ve recently joined forces with Thrive. We specialize in managed IT services for small and midsize businesses, particularly those near our office in Elkridge, Maryland. To learn more about our business and our work in the community, contact us at (410) 997-2500 or visit our website. Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our service offerings and tech tips.