Experts warn that there are several fraudulent tax scams as this year’s tax season begins. Taxpayer data is vulnerable and hackers are using several different techniques in 2017 to target your tax return. Three ways hackers can cash-out on unsuspecting victims include the following:
Target the taxpayer – This is a most common method of attack. One technique is phishing emails that pretending to be from IRS and ask you for personal information or ask you to click on malicious links or open files that are infected. Trojans are another technique; this malware can be used to extract sensitive data from your computer. The best defense is to be careful of emails that you open and keep in mind that hackers typically only need your name, social security number, and birth date to file your taxes.
Target the tax return preparers – This criminal technique targets the tax preparer. The hacker launches an email campaign that sends phishing emails to tax preparers, posing as a potential client. The email contains a malicious attachment. By opening the attachment, the tax preparer has installed malware onto his/her computer that can now act as a keylogger and capture social security numbers, birth date, and other data. This is more difficult to defend against as it targets the tax preparation professional.
Target the IRS – While it is true that the IRS has multiple layers of security, no system is perfect. As an example, last year, hackers compromised social security numbers from outside the IRS and used them to generate over 100,000 e-filing pins to file fake returns.
The deadline for your Federal Tax Returns this year is Tuesday, April 18th, and this year, just like previous ones, more people are expected to file their taxes online over the Internet. It is better to file earlier than later. If you are preparing your own tax return, there are many reputable, online tax preparation web sites and packages – TurboTax Online, H&R Block at Home, TaxAct, and others. Regardless of what tax package you use, keep in mind that these software packages collect your personal information. Also, don’t forget that your information is stored on your own computer as well.
Your personal information is extremely valuable to cyber criminals looking to steal your identity and commit identity fraud. Always be sure that you are careful with your personal data. Keep it encrypted, make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date, and be on the alert for phishing tax prep emails in your inbox.