As The Year Draws To A Close, Beware of “IRS” Phishing Attacks
The holidays mean different things to different people. For some it’s visiting with friends and family, or searching for last-minute bargains on great gifts. For others, though, it means getting together all the year’s information so that it’s ready come tax time. And while it can get exhausting putting all your deductions and receipts in order, it’s important not to fall victim to an increasingly common scam where someone claims to be on your side in order to get your personal information.
Phishing Attacks Using The IRS as Cover
According to the IRS, phishing scams from con artists pretending to represent the nation’s tax authorities remain extremely common. Individuals will receive an email claiming that certain forms or information need to be re-submitted, or that there was a mistake made on the IRS’s part, and that an overlooked refund is waiting for the individual to claim. The second one is particularly effective, because there’s nothing people love more than tax refund checks, and because that is a known and accepted quantity, they don’t dig too deeply into who is asking for their information.
Unfortunately for a large number of U.S. citizens, these scams have been particularly effective. That’s why they’ve hit the top of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which comprises the most common scams taxpayers are likely to find themselves victims of.
How To Avoid Phishing Scams Disguised As IRS Notices
On the one hand, no one wants to get caught taking the bait for a phishing scam. On the other hand, no one wants to ignore legitimate notices from the IRS, especially if those notices really are to tell you that there’s money waiting for you to claim.
Well, first of all, it pays to be suspicious. If you get an email out of nowhere about something the IRS needs from you, that is a very suspicious occurrence. The IRS doesn’t use email correspondence as a primary form of notification, and you’re must more likely to get a call, or a notice in the mail. Additionally, you should look over the email to make sure there’s nothing unusual or off-putting about it. For example, if the sender isn’t from a .gov address, or there are obvious flaws in the wording, those could be red flags that you’re looking at a phisherman’s hook.
Once you’ve examined the email, your next step should be to contact the nearest branch office of the IRS in order to check with them to verify whether or not the content of the message is true. The local branch will be able to look up your information, and tell you whether there are any outstanding refunds or payments that need to be made, and to tell you if there are any problems you need to take care of. If what the office tells you doesn’t jive with what’s in the email you received, someone tried to phish you.
Which means it’s time to report the scam to the authorities so no one else falls victim to it.
A Year-Round Worry
While these phishing scams are most prominent in the spring (which is when people are submitting information and waiting on refunds), it’s not unheard of for them to be found during other parts of the year. So just because you’re getting an email that looks legitimate in October or November, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe. Don’t click through to any websites, and don’t provide any personal information until you’ve checked with the IRS itself, and confirmed the information you’ve been told.
For more information about phishing scams, and other electronic threats, simply contact us today!