Tips for avoiding scams pretending to be IRS demands

Tips for avoiding scams pretending to be IRS demands

Now that the April tax filing deadline has passed, fraudsters are revving up to fool taxpayers and gain a quick buck by using social engineering tactics like phishing scams. These fraudulent schemes often result in people unwittingly handing out usernames, passwords, personally identifiable information (PII), and money.

Cybercriminals carry out their attacks in a variety of ways, including fake IRS phone calls and online services that lure taxpayers into sending money directly to the fraudsters’ accounts. In 2018, fake IRS calls reportedly cost 12,000 victims $63 million in losses.

These scams usually begin with a spam email purportedly from the IRS. They then redirect a user to phishing and malware-ridden sites designed to steal the user’s personally identifiable information (PII), which a fraudster can use to access the victim’s account. With these alarming schemes and incidents, it’s time to learn how to protect yourself.

Ignore suspicious calls

Any time you begin the process of filing taxes, assume all calls from the IRS are suspect. Many of them are merely a guise to scare you into cooperation. In fact, the IRS warns the public about such schemes stating:

“The IRS will not ask for your debit or credit card numbers over the phone. If you owe taxes, make payment to the United States Treasury or review IRS.gov/payments for IRS online options.”

Here are other things that the IRS will never do:

  • Call and demand immediate payment without sending a bill first
  • Contact taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information
  • Demand payment without giving users the opportunity to verify the owed account
  • Ask for a user’s credit and debit card information over the phone or email
  • Threaten an arrest for a missed payment

Beware of phishing emails

Every year around tax day, Americans receive a glut of tax-themed phishing emails. Make sure you’re on high alert and never click on suspicious links or attachments, as these may redirect you to dangerous websites that steal your information or install malware on your computer.

Keep your personal information secure

Data is currency for fraudsters because they can use digital copies of your tax returns to make a profit. For example, they can auction off your data to the highest bidder on the dark web or commit identity theft, using you or your company's name to open lines of credit or other financially damaging activities. Treating phone calls, emails, and other communications with suspicion will eliminate countless threats, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out on high-tech solutions.

Storing your data in secure cloud platforms that employ advanced encryption systems will prevent data from being stolen by hackers who know how to exploit technical vulnerabilities. You should also limit access to, and password-protect your tax documents to ensure only authorized personnel can view them.

Taxpayers and businesses should always exercise caution and be wary when it comes to calls and emails that claim to be from officials or agents of government organizations. If you do receive an unsolicited email from an IRS-related component like Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it immediately to IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.

Lastly, stay aware of the latest security threats and hire an experienced provider like Athens Micro to fortify your defenses against cyberthreats and scams. Your security is our priority. Call us today to learn more.

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