Keep your data cyber safe
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The Internal Revenue Service could now add a third certainty, “scams,” to this quote because of the increasing attempts to swindle taxpayers. When Franklin originally penned this in his letter to French physicist Jan-Baptiste Leroy, the United States Postal Service was only 14 years old and mostly delivering mail by horseback. The speed which information is exchanged now is of course a bit faster than horseback, and with that fraudulent tax filing can be done in a fraction of the time. In fact, a scammer can steal your information and file a fake tax return in just a few minutes. And the worst part is that the only way you know is when you do your own filing and discover someone else already filed as you. By this time, it is too late.
The good news is that the IRS is on your side for this matter, as they also lose when the scammers prevail. Therefore, the IRS has provided a list of known scams so we can all stay alert, see here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scams-consumer-alerts. These scams are well-known techniques that have been used by fraudsters to obtain personal information from thousands of people to allow them to file fake tax returns. The IRS also has published guidance about how to know it’s really the IRS contacting you. In short, the IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers by email, text message, or social media, but you can read more about how to be certain in this valuable article: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-to-know-its-really-the-irs-calling-or-knocking-on-your-door-0.
No one is exempt from the scams — tax professionals, payroll services, and human resources departments are marked with a bullseye. Lately cybercriminals have been targeting tax professionals with phishing emails, which is a fake email masked to be from a legitimate sender or source. Once a malicious link is visited, the email installs malware that allows access to the computer. And once inside the computer, the cybercriminal can download personal customer information. Payroll services and human resources professionals may receive a different type of phishing email, from the CEO or another C-suite, but using a different email address, which requests that the company’s W-2 information be sent to them immediately.
If you or anyone at your company believe you are a victim of a scam, report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration either to their web page, https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/contact_report_scam.shtml or by phone, (800) 366-4484.
Practice cyber safety to keep your personal information from scammers. Be sure to install anti-virus programs on your computer, tablet, and cell phone. If you don’t know the sender of an email, think before clicking links. Should you receive an email or letter from the IRS, you might consider conducting a web search for a telephone number to call instead of calling the number listed in the email or letter. If you receive a hostile phone call claiming to be from or on behalf of the IRS, get the caller’s name and number, then contact the IRS directly — it is most likely a scam.
Remember, you have control over who you provide your personal information to – keep it with you, keep it cyber safe.