Last-minute taxes are on and the blending stress with the necessity of meeting deadlines, could become a prime time for cyber attackers to prey on unsuspecting victims. Dubbed the “double trouble” season, it’s crucial now more than ever to safeguard your information from those looking to exploit this hectic period. Here’s a reminder, how to stay protected against tax season malware attacks and phishing scams.

Stay Cool

Stay cool and don’t get too stressed, as this can make you vulnerable to malware attacks and distract you from the main task: doing your taxes correctly and securely.

Recognize the Lure of Fraudulent IRS Communications

Cybercriminals often craft emails mimicking those from the IRS, luring individuals with promises of assistance in tax calculations and payments. However, these emails often contain malicious attachments designed to inject malware into your system or redirect you to sites aimed at stealing personal and financial information.

What Does Genuine IRS Communication Look Like?

The IRS maintains a protocol of directing taxpayers back to their official website for any tax-related inquiries or actions. Authentic IRS emails will never solicit downloads of plans or tools; instead, they’ll guide you to the “Where’s My Refund?” section on their site to securely access your information.

The Persistent Threat: Over a Decade of Deception

Unfortunately, this form of cyber deception is not new and has plagued taxpayers for over ten years. Recognizing the signs of a scam is the first step in defending yourself.

Identifying a Scam Email

Here are some red flags:

  • Unsolicited Requests for Personal Information: Legitimate IRS communications will not ask for your SSN, bank details, or security questions via email.
  • Bait and Switch Tactics: Be wary of emails mentioning tax refunds or offering payment for survey participation.
  • Threatening Language: Any email that imposes consequences for non-response is a clear sign of a scam.
  • Incorrect Agency Names: Misspellings or incorrect use of federal agency names are telltale signs.
  • Grammar and Phrasing Errors: Many scams originate from non-native English speakers, resulting in odd or incorrect language.
  • Suspicious Links: Always hover over any links to check their validity. Genuine IRS links will start with http://www.irs.gov.

What to Do with Suspicious Emails

  • Do Not Open Attachments or Click Links: These may contain malware or lead you to fraudulent sites.
  • Directly Navigate to the IRS Website: Use the official IRS site to check on refunds or any tax-related queries.
  • Report Suspicious Emails: Forward them to phishing@irs.gov before deleting them from your inbox.

Victims of identity theft or those suspecting foul play can seek assistance at www.OnGuardOnline.gov, a U.S. Federal Trade Commission site co-sponsored by the IRS, offering extensive resources on combating identity theft and scams.

As tax season intensifies, so does the creativity of cyber threats. By staying informed and vigilant, you can protect yourself from becoming a statistic in the growing number of tax season scams. Always remember, when in doubt, directly contact the IRS through their official channels for peace of mind and security.

For more insights and updates on navigating cybersecurity threats during tax season and after it, stay tuned to our blog. Your safety is our priority, and together, we can make tax season less about “double trouble” and more about securing your financial future.