The 2016 tax season is just around the corner and schemers, criminals and cyber-thieves are already preparing to lift your hard-earned dollars from your pocket. Every year, thieves steal billions by filing false returns and duping trusting people into sending thousands of dollars to settle bogus “IRS” tax claims.
Criminals can create an IRS account in your name
That’s right! Cyber thieves can either steal your information from various readily-available online sources or purchase it from the Cyber-crime underground and use it to create an IRS account in your name. All they have to know are your name, date of birth, social security number and filing status. With this basic info, a thief can register on IRS.gov and obtain access to your full tax transcript because the IRS verification process is very poor and easily circumvented.
Security expert Brian Krebs suggests that you create an account on irs.gov before criminals do so in your name.
Beware of bogus IRS phone calls
Every year we hear about thousands of unsuspecting people being conned out of their hard-earned money because they followed instructions from someone on the phone impersonating an IRS agent. If you receive a phone call from someone saying they’re from the IRS demanding immediate payment—don’t give any information and in fact, hang up immediately. It’s a scam.
Quite simply, the IRS will never:
- Call, email, text, or contact you via social media to gather information.
- Call you and demand immediate payment and will never ask you to make such payments using a prepaid debit card.
The IRS will ALWAYS initiate contact with you regarding unpaid taxes by first mailing you a bill with instructions on what to do or how to get additional information.
Watch out for emails claiming to be from the IRS
Phishing is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise and thieves know that there are three (3) letters that scare every American citizen—IRS. So, they create official-looking emails with the IRS logo and legitimate-looking (but bogus) websites designed to get you to click on a link or visit an infected site. Sometimes, they’ll even attach a document with instructions to open it to see your tax bill, etc.
Once you take the requested action, malware will download onto your machine and steal your identity, financial information and other confidential data. With this information, the thief can file bogus tax returns to get refunds, open credit cards in your name, etc. Afterwards, your personal information will be sold to the criminal underground. Read this IRS tax tip to learn more.
What you can do to protect yourself
- Limit the personal information that you post on social media. Social media sites are a treasure trove for criminals.
- If you own a business, make sure your employees know what types of information they should never reveal to anyone on the phone or through email. The same goes for members of your family—never divulge personal information to anyone you don’t know or has no need to know.
- Use strong passwords, change them frequently and if necessary, use a secure password manager to keep track of them.
- Create your IRS account on irs.gov before a criminal does it for you and do your own taxes as early as possible.
- Keep antivirus, anti-malware, operating systems, and third party programs up-to-date.
- Use an Advanced SPAM Filter to dramatically reduce the number of SPAM emails hitting your inbox.
- Never click on any links or open attachments in an email sent by someone you do not know.
- Never click on anything or follow instructions from an email that claims to be from the IRS no matter how official it looks. If in doubt, call the IRS directly.
- If you get a call from someone saying they’re from the IRS demanding payment of any kind, do not give any information and simply hang up. It’s a scam.
- Don’t use debit cards to pay for anything online, gas at the pumps, or in stores. The use of skimmers is on the rise and POS terminals can be compromised. Once criminals get your debit card number, they’ll clean out your bank account. Use credit cards instead for better protection and review statements frequently.
- Monitor all bank and financial accounts and report suspicious transactions to your financial institution immediately.
- Make sure you keep a complete backup of your computer systems. This is where a business can truly benefit from a Business Continuity solution and recover quickly should systems become infected.
- Businesses should have their network monitored and maintained by a Managed Services Provider (MSP). This is one of those times when break-fix computer services is simply not enough. Businesses need to have their systems monitored and maintained for maximum productivity and protection.
Be wary and protect yourself at all times—not just at tax time
The sad truth is: the more trusting people are, the greater the danger that they will become victims.
Criminals play on human emotion to get people to click on links, open attachments and reveal confidential information. The best cyber security system in the world cannot fully protect us. We have to take full responsibility for that ourselves. Be aware at all times.
XSolutions is a Managed Services Provider (MSP) and provides 24/7/365 remote monitoring, scheduled workstation and server maintenance, Help Desk Services, Business Continuity Solutions, Cloud & Hosted Services and IT Consulting. Call us at (845) 362-9675 and see how we can help your company.