WASHINGTON –The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners cautioned taxpayers today to avoid identity theft by watching for phishing scams that can increase around the tax season. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry – all partners in the fight against identity theft- reminded taxpayers that the easiest way for an identity thief to steal taxpayer information is by simply asking for it. As a result, each day people fall victim to phishing scams through emails, texts, or phone and mistakenly turn over important data. In turn, cybercriminals try to use that data to file fraudulent tax returns or commit other crimes.
This is the second reminder to taxpayers during the “National Tax Security Awareness Week.” This week, the IRS, states and the tax community are sharing information to taxpayers and tax professionals as a part of the ongoing Security Summit effort to combat refund fraud and identity theft.
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season.
Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to tax refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, verifying PIN information and asking people to verify their tax software account.
Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages, and the misleading communications can be seen in every section of the country.
When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people’s computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.
For more details, see:
As part of the “Taxes. Security. Together.” campaign aimed at encouraging taxpayers to take stronger measures to protect their financial and tax data, the IRS and its Security Summit partners urged people not to give out personal information based on an unsolicited email request.
The campaign calls for taxpayers take the time to examine, identify and avoid emails that:
Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails – and sharing that knowledge with family members – is critical to combating identity theft and data loss.
Additional steps that can help taxpayers protect their personal and financial data are available on the “Taxes. Security. Together.” page as well as in Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers. Also, taxpayers help spread the word on this week’s messages using the hashtag #TaxSecurity in social media platforms.