Hackers target taxpayers. Here’s how to protect your data

Cybercriminals love tax evasion because it is a simple business operation that offers high financial rewards.

The crimes committed are “done almost in a chain,” Jason Glassberg, co-founder of Casaba Security, a Redmond, Washington-based cybersecurity firm specializing in ethical hacking and developing security programs, told TheStreet.

“You just file as many personal tax returns as possible as early in the season as possible and collect the refunds,” he said. “Since the IRS enabled direct deposits, instead of having to physically send you a refund check to your home address, it has become incredibly easy for the scammer to scam consumers.”

Cybercrime groups have learned that tax season is a real boon for cybercrime groups. Their efforts are sophisticated, and they don’t need to find a software vulnerability in a web application or tax-filing tool to pull off these scams, Glassberg said.

“They just social engineer people via email, phone or text to get enough personal information to file for them,” he said. “Or they just buy the personal identity through the many services available on the Dark Web.”

Personal information can be used for other frauds

Information stolen from a tax return is extremely valuable to hackers because it can be used for financial or medical theft and used or sold for spear phishing, account takeovers, ransomware, or to launch a cyberattack on your home. employer, at your place of work. , Atif Mushtaq, chief product officer at SlashNext, an anti-phishing company based in Pleasanton, Calif., told TheStreet.

“Beware of any text, email or phone call from anyone claiming to be from the IRS,” he said. “Check the URLs for the exact IRS website – https://www.irs.gov. Be sure to enter the correct URL in your web browser to prevent typo-squatter websites from impersonating for the IRS Protect your mobile devices and computers with anti-phishing and anti-malware protection.

The IRS never calls, texts or emails anyone

The IRS does not contact taxpayers by email, text, or social media to request personal or financial information.

“A simple rule to remember: never click on links in an email or text message,” Ray Kelly, a member of NTT Application Security, an application security provider based in San Jose, Calif., told TheStreet. . “Even if it’s something you’ve been waiting for, it’s still much safer to visit the site directly.”

During tax season, consumers may receive calls claiming that your Social Security number has been stolen and that verification is needed, but these are actually attempts to obtain information to use in scams or information about your bank account to steal your money, Alex Hamerstone, director of consulting solutions for TrustedSec, a cybersecurity firm based in Strongsville, Ohio, told TheStreet.

“Live callers will often pretend to be the IRS, but the IRS will almost never call you for any reason,” he said. “Scammers will try to scare you away and create a sense of urgency. They want you to make a decision right away because they know the more you think about it, the more you’ll realize you’ve been scammed.

Technology has made it very easy to fake or spoof the phone number that appears on your caller ID.

“I can’t express enough how easy this usurpation is,” Hamerstone said. “Don’t trust your caller ID.”

Taxpayers should avoid opening suspicious attachments they receive via email or text message.

“Links in phishing emails will take users to a similar domain and ask for user login credentials,” he said. “From there, hackers will use those credentials to log into the legitimate website and attempt to gain access to users’ account or sensitive personal information.”

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Clues that should alarm you

Good spam filters will help ensure such email scams don’t make it to the inbox, said Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at management solutions provider Delinea. privileged access based in Redwood City, Calif. at TheStreet.

“If an email arrives in the inbox, go to the website and call the number to check if it is genuine and do not call the number if it is provided in the email because , most likely, it is also false,” he said. .

Here are some other clues that the sender is a fraudster. Check the email’s sender address, not the display name, and look for spelling mistakes. Look at hyperlink addresses by hovering over them to see where they take you, but don’t click on the links, Carson said.

“Also verify the accuracy of your personal information,” he said. “These simple tips can help avoid a cybersecurity nightmare.”

Instead of using your Social Security number or Individual Tax ID number when you file your taxes, you can choose to use an IRS Identity Protection PIN, which is a six-number figures.

sh tax calculator numbers

Most people have had their personal information compromised due to the slew of retailer and company database hacks, Glassberg said.

The IRS has a special affidavit called the Identity Theft Affidavit or Form 14039 so consumers can file which informs them that you are at higher risk for tax identity theft and refund fraud, did you -he declares.

Consumers should also try to file their taxes as early in the season as possible and reduce the chances of someone stealing your identity.

“It’s a simple way to reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud,” Glassberg said.

Never pay with a gift card

The IRS does not threaten taxpayers with imprisonment or require people to initiate payment immediately via a specific payment method such as a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

“Common sense goes a long way here to avoid getting ripped off,” Glassberg said.

There are criminals who scam people the old-fashioned way by posing as tax preparers. They will often add illegal deductions, Hamerstone said.

“It’s the one that surprises people,” he said. “There are actually bogus tax preparers out there. Some have even installed showcases. They will steal your refund by redirecting it to your bank account and often increase your refund with inappropriate/illegal deductions.

Hackers and scammers often exploit fear and urgency.

“Taxes are a perfect chance for crooks to create both,” Hamerstone said. “Remember, the IRS will never call you. They communicate by US mail. And you’ll never, ever, no matter what, pay your tax bill with gift cards. Ever. Every time someone asking you to buy gift cards and send them the codes is a scam.

About Kristina McManus

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