If you're one of the 150 million people filing a federal tax return this year, the Internal Revenue Service has a warning for you. Even if you don't file your taxes electronically, you need to know about this.
The IRS is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for phishing scams and malware, after seeing a 400% surge in hacker attacks so far this tax season. With phishing emails or texts, hackers send messages to you that look like they are coming from the IRS or a reputable company.
They'll trick you by using logos, letterhead and the mailing address of the IRS or the tax preparation software that you use. It may include a link to malware that infects your computer, so they can take it over or spy on you.
The links may take you to a site that looks like it belongs to the IRS or another company. You'll be asked to provide personal details. The IRS warns that hackers may then infect your device with malware. They may also infect your computer with ransomware.
Note: A California hospital recently paid ransom to hackers who had taken over its computer system and shut it down.
The IRS says the emails and texts that hackers are sending include several messages, including: Update your filing details; get your IP PIN; get your E-file PIN; order a transcript; and others. In other words, there isn't one just one red flag. The IRS also says the scams aren't limited to a specific area of the country.
Be extra careful if you receive an email or text where you're being asked to provide personal information, like your Social Security number. If hackers get their hands on this information, they may file tax returns in your name and collect a refund from the IRS.
"This dramatic jump in these scams comes at the busiest time of tax season," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in a statement. "Watch out for fraudsters slipping these official-looking emails into inboxes, trying to confuse people at the very time they work on their taxes. We urge people not to click on these emails."
The IRS also notes that it "generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information." If you receive a phishing email that appears to be from the IRS, report it to the IRS by sending an email to Phishing@IRS.gov, or visit the IRS's Report Phishing and Online Scams page by clicking here.