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IRS warning! Watch out for these tax-themed phishing and malware scams

IRS warning! Watch out for these tax-themed phishing and malware scams
© Paulus Rusyanto | Dreamstime.com

The tax deadline is approaching fast. Although, due to a couple of special circumstances, you will have a couple extra days to file this year. Typically what's known as "Tax Day" falls on April 15, this year it will be Tuesday, April 18.

With less than a month till Tax Day, the Internal Revenue Service is warning of some scary scams that you need to know about.

What you need to watch out for

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry are warning both tax professionals and taxpayers of last-minute phishing email scams. You especially need to watch out for emails requesting last-minute deposit changes for refunds or account updates. The agencies said tax-related scams are at their peak of this filing season and everyone needs to be on guard against suspicious activity.

An example of a current scam involves a fraudster posing as a legitimate taxpayer, asking tax preparers to make a last-minute change to their refund destination. In most cases, people are being asked to send the refund to a prepaid debit card. The IRS is urging tax professionals to verbally reconfirm information with the client should they receive a last-minute email request to change an address or direct deposit account for refunds.

Also, taxpayers are being told to watch out for scam emails that claim to be from their tax software provider or others, asking them to update online accounts. The IRS is urging everyone to learn how to recognize a phishing scam, whether it's an email, phone call or text.

Phishing scams occur when someone poses as a legitimate organization such as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or even the IRS. They then try tricking the victim into giving up sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers, bank accounts or credit and debit card numbers. Any taxpayer who receives suspicious emails purporting to be from a tax software provider or from the IRS should forward them to phishing@irs.gov.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here is what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant: choose "Other" and then "Impostor Scams." If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

Also, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.

How to recognize a phishing email:

  • Be cautious with links - If you get an email or notification from a site that you find suspicious, don't click on its links. It's better to type the website's address directly into a browser than clicking on a link. Before you ever click on a link, hover over it with your mouse to see where it is going to take you. If the destination isn't what the link claims, do not click on it.
  • Watch for typos - Phishing scams are infamous for having typos. If you receive an email or notification from a reputable company, it should not contain typos. Take our phishing IQ test to see if you can spot a fake email.
  • Do an online search - If you get a notification that seems shady, you should do an online search on the topic. If it's a scam, there are probably people online complaining about it and you can find more information.
  • Check your online accounts - The site Have I Been Pwned allows you to check if your email address has been compromised in a data breach.
  • Have strong security software - Having strong protection on your family's gadgets is very important. The best defense against digital threats is strong security software.

Since it's crunch-time, all taxpayers should be on high-alert when it comes to watching for scams. Keep checking our Happening Now section and we'll let you know of the latest tax-related scams.

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Source: IRS.gov
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