Most people do not look forward to tax season. However, groups of financial fraudsters can’t wait for it to get started. This is the time of year when scam artists will try to take advantage of taxpayers’ stress and concerns – especially the elderly, who may not have technical experience – by pretending to be the IRS and deceiving them into unknowingly providing their personal and financial information.
Detecting and Preventing Phishing Scams
Many taxpayers become anxious about possible errors on their returns, which could make them susceptible to calls and emails from tax scammers. Credit unions can help prevent their members from falling victim to phishing scams by educating them about the warning signs.
- The IRS will not initiate contact with a taxpayer by email, nor will they send a message via text or on social media. Any requests for financial and account information, passwords or similar information for credit cards via these channels should be ignored, deleted or reported to the IRS.
- The IRS also doesn’t call to demand immediate payment using specific methods like prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to taxpayers who owe taxes. The taxpayer can then call the number on the bill to verify the contact actually came from the IRS.
- Over the past several years, the IRS has reported a new email phishing scam. The email subject line may vary, but recent examples use the phrases “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax Return Reminder.” Clicking on a link in the email takes users to a site that looks just like an official IRS site. When users try to access links on those sites, malicious files are downloaded to their computer. By infecting computers with malware, the imposters can gain control of the user’s computer or secretly download software that tracks every keystroke, eventually obtaining passwords to sensitive information, including financial accounts. All of this can take place without the user’s knowledge.
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