They say that nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes. But come tax season, it seems like another commonality is IRS scams.
Lo and behold — it’s a new tax season, and there’s a new IRS scam that’s out there attempting to dupe people into turning over confidential information. The one that’s making the rounds this year is online based, and cyber crooks will literally hold your tax information for ransom until you pony up the monetary amount they request.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at this year’s common — and potentially most damaging — tax scam so you can stay safe when you file your 2019 returns before the April 15 deadline. Here’s a look:
The New 2020 Tax Scam
Like we said in the opening, this year’s new tax scam is relevant to those who file their taxes online. Specifically, it’s a ransomware attack, where sensitive tax files are frozen or locked by a wrongdoer, only to be released after the thief has been paid a requested monetary amount by their victim. But even if the ransom is paid, there’s still no guarantee the hackers will forego using the information they’ve uncovered. In fact, it can behoove them to snag your Social Security number and file fraudulent tax returns on your behalf.
Their goal, essentially, is to use the information they glean and file it before you can, thereby allowing them to recoup your refund. Then, when you go to file, the IRS will reject your tax return because they would have already received one claiming to be from you.
Let’s hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, you’ll need to file Form 14039 to claim you’re a victim of identity theft.
Stay safe from this ransomware attack the same way you would if you were just using the internet. Don’t open up any unusual emails, and certainly don’t click on any odd attachments. Make sure that your computer’s anti-virus software is up to date and turned on. And last but not least, don’t share any confidential information over a wireless network that is not secure.
Other Tax Fraud to Lookout For
While the aforementioned tax scam might be the latest, it’s hardly the only one that is sure to make the rounds this tax season. Here’s a look at some other scams that you should be on the lookout for:
- Phone scams: If you receive a phone call telling you that there’s something wrong with your Social Security number or that it has been suspended, hang up the phone right away. Phone scams are a popular means of attempting to induce panic in their victims and get them to voluntarily offer up their information on the spot. Hackers might try different little tricks, like getting you to verify your Social Security number for security purposes or even sending you an email with “proof” of their claims. Whether it’s a robocall or an actual person on the other end of the line, don’t ever reveal confidential information on the phone to someone you don’t know.
- W-2 scams: Another common scam targets businesses, specifically those who work in financial roles with such institutions. A hacker’s goal is get an employee to hand over confidential W-2 information for those who work in the company, and they’ll often try to do it by posing as an employee in an upper management or leadership role in an attempt to dupe a lower level worker to turn the information over via email.
- IRS Online: If you ever receive an email from the sender “IRS Online,” delete it. It likely contains some sort of attachment, often a fake tax transcript. The hacker hopes that you click on the attachment, as when you do, it’ll infect your computer with malware.
Don’t fall victim to an IRS tax scam this year. If you receive anything that seems fishy, there are a few ways to report it. You can send questionable emails to [email protected], and report Social Security scams by visiting oig.sssa.gov. There were nearly 650,000 fraudulent tax attempts in 2018 — make sure you know the scams so that you can prevent yourself from being among the attempts this year.