Individual Cybersecurity

Protect Yourself from Common Tax Scams

It’s that time of year again.  The time that reminds us of the two certainties of life.  You guessed it: tax season. Sure tax season brings a long list of to-do’s and can even be on the stressful side. But it could be even worse if you fall victim to a tax scam. During tax season, many scammers ramp up their attacks by pretending to be from the IRS or an accounting agency offering services. (As if we don’t have enough to worry about, right?).

Here are some quick tips to keep yourself cyber safe and avoid tax scams:

  • Don’t provide information like credit card or Social Security numbers over the phone, text, or email to anyone claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will not ask for information over the phone or in an unsolicited email.
  • Don’t fall for urgent, threatening messages, e.g., from a caller who says they are from the IRS and that you must pay $X now or they will garnish your wages, for example.
  • Be careful about falling for too good to be true deals for tax preparation services and false exemptions. Verify this is a legitimate vendor by checking the Better Business Bureau and, if they are, verify that this is a legitimate offer by calling the vendor directly; look up the number separately, don’t use a number provided in the email.
  • Ensure your tax preparer is reputable – check the Better Business Bureau if you are unsure.
  • If you leverage an online tax preparer service, check that:
    • Their webpage is encrypted (“https”)
    • You protect that account with a strong password and leverage two-factor authentication if available (password and another form of authorization such as a one-time pin code texted to your mobile)
    • You are downloading their official app (use the company’s main website to obtain the application)
  • Remember to avoid discussing or preparing your taxes in a public place, such as a coffee house or restaurant
  • As with any email communication, be very cautious about clicking on links or downloading attachments. Don’t interact with emails or text messages that lure you into downloading attachments or clicking on links to your “alleged” W-2 forms and other tax documents.
  • For any questions, visit the IRS's website: Internal Revenue Service | An official website of the United States government (irs.gov)
  • Leverage the IRS and FTC which offer sources pertaining to tax scams and steps you can take if you are affected at: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/how-do-you-report-suspected-tax-fraud-activity and https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/tax-related-identity-theft#_Dealing_With_Tax-Related

If you suspect you have clicked on a suspicious link or entered information at a suspicious site related to your taxes, as a precautionary step, change your passwords on your accounts with sensitive data (e.g., banking, credit card, brokerage) and monitor any financial accounts closely.

And stay cyber safe!