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It’s the least favorite time of the year: tax season. Criminals take advantage of the general public’s uneasiness about paying taxes to do tax scams and try to steal as much money as they possibly can. According to a 2019 report by the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, phishing (or tricking people into offering personal information) cost victims over $57 million. While not all tax scams attempts look the same, they are all intended to compromise your personal information to steal your money. Here’s what you should know about how the bad guys operate:
Tax scam No.1: Scammers send fake emails from the IRS
One of the most common ways thieves obtain your sensitive information is through phishing scams designed to look like emails from the IRS or other tax-related organizations. These emails are sent out to millions of people, so it's important to look out for telltale signs of a potential scam.
“To avoid potential online scams, before you even respond to an email claiming they are the IRS, check their credentials and spelling,” Manny Vetti, President of Back Taxes Help, LLC tells Yahoo Life. “Most scams have bad grammar and misspelled words.”
“Before you ever send any important information, it is always best to only fill out information directly through a government website or through the main service link provided by your personal tax advisor. If you think it’s suspicious, it probably is.”
If it seems suspicious, mark the email as spam or report it to the Internal Revenue Service at email@example.com.
For an extra line of defense, invest in a cybersecurity guardrail like McAfee Multi Access. It’s anti-phishing feature warns you of phishing attacks and phishing websites, and checks and alerts users to risky websites obtained through social media, email and instant messages. McAfee Multi Access also blocks dangerous messages before they can land in your inbox.
Also, know how the IRS will contact you: the IRS will not engage with taxpayers to request their financial or personal information via social media, emails or text messages. If you owe money to the IRS, they will send an official letter or bill outlining any action you need to take.
Tax scam No.2: Beware of offers that are too-good-to-be-true
Criminals will try to lure taxpayers into replying by promising unbelievable offers such as guaranteed refunds, free money to complete a survey or large tax loopholes, among others.
The fake websites include a link to start the refund process...but you should know, it’s a scam. One click is all it takes, and you’ve got a virus or spyware on your hard drive, or someone has walked off with your well-deserved refund.
“These con artists set up shop for just long enough to collect victims’ personal information in order direct refunds to themselves,” Robert Siciliano, cyber social identity instructor at Protect Now tells Yahoo Life. “Stick to doing business with accountants you know, like, and trust.”
Tax scam No.3: Using an open WiFi hotspot to duplicate your data
A potential scammer can use an open WiFi network to access software which can duplicate or steal your data. You should never file your tax returns electronically over a public network - and it’s important to secure financial information on your hardware. McAfee Multi Access’ File Lock feature protects your personal files with a one-two punch of password protection and encryption.
There are ways you can keep your personal information safe. “When filing your taxes by yourself, you should...never store [your social security number] online, and keep it private,” Imani Francis a digital security expert with USInsuranceAgents.com tells Yahoo Life.
“If your printer stores data, wipe it after printing tax documents that notate your social security number.”
McAfee Multi Access also includes a feature that protects your identity and privacy by permanently erasing important files from your PC— ideal for tax documents and other financial information you no longer need to keep.
The IRS recently announced that multi-factor authentication, a process where users need to verify their identity in two separate ways (and often, on two separate devices), is now available on all 2021 tax prep products. This is good news: scammers can use various ways to get access to your passwords. The multi-factor authentication can help because it can block the bad guy’s ability to get the required security code to get access to your account.
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