Winter is slowly coming to a close, meaning that tax season is nearly upon us! Did you know that cyber thieves routinely use this time as an opportunity to lure people into online scams? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that in 2015, identity theft reports were up 50%, and the #1 cause of the spike was tax refund fraud. Here are three tips to avoid falling prey to attackers during this very stressful time of year:
File early, and protect your personal information!
If an attacker has somehow acquired your social security number, they will typically use it to file your taxes and steal your refund, also known as tax refund fraud. The FTC strongly advises that you file your taxes as early as possible after receiving all necessary paperwork. The IRS can only process one tax refund per person, so if an attacker attempts to use your social security number after you have already filed, the IRS will deny it.
It is also generally a good idea to only use your social security number online when you absolutely have to, and to shred any old paperwork with sensitive information on it, such as bank statements.
Be extra wary of suspicious emails during tax season.
Cybercriminals cannot access your personal information unless they steal it from you, or get you to hand it over to them involuntarily, via phishing. Make sure to watch out for unsolicited emails, texts, social media posts, etc. that may prompt you to click on a link or to share valuable personal or financial information. Also, if you receive any of these phishing emails, make sure to forward them to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win an Amazon gift card in the UP Phishing Derby! Just make sure to delete the email afterwards!
Watch out for imposter IRS agents.
The IRS will never call or email you demanding immediate payment without first having mailed a bill, this is a sign of a phishing attempt. Nor will they ask you for sensitive bank information such as a credit card number over the phone, this is also a sign of a phishing attempt.
For more information about tax fraud, visit https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/security/what-is-stolen-identity-refund-fraud/L3fFN1Gyk
For more information about staying safe during tax season, visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0029-tax-identity-theft-awareness-week
For more tips regarding cybersecurity, visit https://sites.up.edu/cybersecurity