Tag Archives: tax scams

How to avoid tax scams this year

As tax season rolls on, scams are picking up, hurting last-minute filers. And Microsoft is offering advice to help steer clear of them.

In February, there was an average of 300,000 phishing attempts per day across Microsoft’s browsers, the company said in an advisory. The company’s security experts expect these scams to grow as tax day approaches.

In the two weeks before the April 15 deadline, 20 to 25 percent of Americans file taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And with about a month until the filing deadline, Microsoft is urging Windows 10 users to take the following steps to avoid tax scams.

Blocks with scam phrases

Passwords are not enough

“Don’t rely on passwords alone. When possible, always use multi-factor authentication,” Holly Stewart, Principal Research Lead for the Windows Defender Antivirus Research team at Microsoft, wrote in the note.

With multi-factor authentication, a user gets access to a feature or device only after providing two or more pieces of identification. So instead of just providing a password, a user is also asked to provide a temporary passcode and/or a biometric ID, like a fingerprint or face scan.

Newer Windows 10 laptops from manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard and Dell now often come with “Windows Hello” face ID or fingerprint ID or both. Microsoft also offers a Microsoft Authenticator app for managing account logins on other devices, including Apple and Google products.

Be very wary of email

The company also said that users should be suspicious of all links, especially when the email seems “off” or unexpected – like an email from your credit card company, or financial institution.

There are also preventative measures users can take, such as checking directly with the sender before opening or downloading an attachment, Microsoft added.

And tax-related URLs should be scrutinized too. For example, users should hover over links to make sure the URL goes to a legitimate website. If you’re not sure, rather than clicking on the link, bring up the tax site via a search engine and log in from there, Microsoft said.

And more wary of attachments

Attachments are notorious places for malware to get at your personal data. An email with a fake invoice from a tax preparation company is one of the top methods criminals use to trick people into opening a malicious attachment that could, in turn, execute malware on your computer, Microsoft said.

“We’ve seen PDFs that contain innocuous-looking links that lead to users accidentally downloading malicious software designed to steal their credentials,”  the company wrote in the advisory.

Keep software up-to-date

Lastly, users should keep their software current. If you’re running Windows 10, make sure it has the latest security and feature updates and you have virus protection running, such as Windows Defender Antivirus.

Source: Fox

IRS Announces Dirty Dozen Tax Scams – Part 2

Last week we told you about the three largest of the “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams”. This week we will cover the rest.

Return preparer fraud – In conjunction with Identity Theft, many temporary tax preparation offices set up shop and generate fraudulent tax returns. These folks often file a return using stolen information, create refund fraud and other scams that leave you holding the tax obligation when caught.

Offshore accounts – The IRS has taken many enforcement actions in this area after breaking the long-standing secrecy wall of Swiss bank accounts. If you have money in foreign accounts, you must understand the reporting requirements or you could be subject to substantial fines.

Fake charities – After major disasters, many charitable givers are scammed into making donations to fake charities. In addition, new IRS charitable organization reporting requirements are not being followed by many organizations. This makes donations to them non-deductible. To protect against this, make sure the charity is both legitimate and deemed a qualified charity by the IRS before you donate.

Other scams – The other six scams that round out the IRS list include: inflated refund claims, falsely padding deductions, excessive business credit claims, falsifying income to claim credits, abusive tax shelters, and frivolous tax arguments.

If you want more info, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and click on the News & Events tab/Tax Scams!

IRS Announces Dirty Dozen Tax Scams – Part 1

Each year the IRS announces “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” they encounter regarding frivolous tax arguments and fraud. While six of the “scams” are related to, “don’t cheat we have our eyes on you,” the other six are scams that all of us should be on guard to detect. Here are the largest three scams:

Identity theft – Identity theft tops the list of the dirty dozen this year. This reflects a truly bad year for the IRS. The IRS has acknowledged the theft of taxpayer’s private information three times in the past eighteen months. Thankfully, the IRS is taking precautionary measures to curtail this huge problem. For example, they are limiting the number of direct deposits it will make to any single account, working with states and tax preparation software vendors to put more controls in place, delaying the early processing of tax refunds, internal tracking within software programs, and continual checking for heavy filing activity. Some states will even be requiring driver’s license numbers on their tax forms. For people who have already had identity problems, there are taxpayer single use tax ID’s that change every year. If you wish to know more, here is a link to the IRS identity protection page: IRS Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance

Phone scams – Phone calls from thieves representing themselves as IRS agents continue to get more sophisticated. These thieves often have some personal information, the caller ID may show as coming from the IRS and the scam may involve numerous phone calls instead of a single contact. Some are even automated phone calls! Threats range from arrest warrants to deportation to law suits. Remember, never give information over the phone to someone claiming to be from the IRS when they call.

Phishing – This recurring scam involves receiving fake emails and creating websites that look like the real deal. The IRS will not send you billing information or refund information via email. Do not click on any link from an email received from the IRS unless you requested it. Remember the IRS does not initiate contact through emails.

Look for the second part of this article next week for more info!