Accountants are not the only ones working overtime during tax season. Scammers take advantage of this time of year to prey on taxpayers to try to steal their money and identity. The IRS has begun compiling its perennial “Dirty Dozen” list of the common scams that tend to peak during the tax filing months.
As usual, phishing schemes top the list of the most prevalent scams. While attempts to lure victims into sending money or revealing personal information have been commonplace for years, the form these scams take continues to evolve and often become more complicated.
For example, one scheme involves thieves who have stolen personal data and then filed fraudulent tax returns. The criminals will actually deposit the ill-gotten tax refunds into the victim’s bank account and then use various tactics to reclaim the money from the taxpayer by pretending to be from a collection agency or the IRS or some other figure of authority.
Con artists also use schemes to spoof the email address of a company executive or a payroll professional or other business contact. There are several varieties of this scam as well. Depending on the variation used, the criminal will pose, for example, as a business asking the recipient to pay a fake invoice or an employee requesting to reroute a direct deposit or a company executive asking the employee to initiate a wire transfer.
Criminals may use the email credentials from a successful phishing attack to send phishing emails to the victim’s email contacts.
Malicious emails and websites can infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware without the user knowing it. The malware downloads in the background, giving the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access any sensitive files or even track keyboard strokes, exposing login victim’s information.
Awareness is the best defense against an attack of this kind. Before clicking on a link or opening an attachment or even hitting “reply” to a suspicious email, we recommend contacting the purported sender directly to verify it is legitimate. If you should receive any correspondence from the IRS, please call us immediately.
For more of the IRS’s Dirty Dozen, please click here.