Tuesday, April 18 is Tax Day. If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, time is running out.
Get it done ASAP, but be careful! Scammers are ramping up their efforts as we get closer to the deadline. Watch out for this new scam making the rounds on social media.
Filing your taxes electronically is a fast and easy way to get the dreaded chore out of the way each year. There are a number of IRS-authorized sites out there, but it seems you can’t even trust that anymore.
Don’t use this site
You’d think that an authorized site would be safe to use, but you’d be wrong.
A very popular e-file site called eFile.com (yeah, that’s a bit confusing) was caught spreading malware. The timing couldn’t be worse, as more people scramble to file their taxes by the deadline.
On March 17, a Redditor posted an error page from eFile.com that claimed a “browser update” was required to access the site. The page looks pretty legit, but clicking the “download” button installs malware targeting Windows PCs. If you’re on a Mac, you weren’t targeted.
Security researchers MalwareHunterTeam tweeted that the malware was still active as of April 3. Yes, weeks later.
While you should always be wary of any error message, especially one with a download link, there were other signs that this was not legitimate:
- Spelling errors: The word “normally” is spelled as “normaaly.”
- Punctuation errors: There are no spaces between the periods.
- Grammar errors: This entire sentence is one big red flag: “When browser tried to connect to this site this time the website sent back unusual and incorrect credentials.” Unusual and incorrect is an understatement!
RELATED: Email subject lines that scream, “This is a scam!”
They’ve gotta do better than that
It’s very concerning that an IRS-approved site didn’t notice that they were spreading malware for weeks. Why don’t they have safeguards in place? Who knows how many people downloaded this junk?
There is some confusion due to the name of the site. Let’s clear it up now: This incident involves the website eFile.com, not the entire e-file system used by the IRS. You can still use other sites like TurboTax and H&R Block.
Our advice: Don’t use e-File.com.
If you or someone you know already used eFile.com, do this now:
- Run an antivirus scan. FYI, Kim recommends TotalAV.
- Freeze your credit. Here’s how.
And if you’re filing your taxes online, be proactive. Fire up your antivirus software and don’t click pop-ups.
The classics evolved
While we see repeats of the same old tax scams every year, crooks are constantly fine-tuning their techniques.
False tax documents are nothing new, but scammers are upping the game by customizing the information on the forms to lure victims into a false sense of security. Cybersecurity firm Securonix is warning that the Russian hacking group TACTICAL#OCTOPUS is targeting people in the U.S. using false W-2 and I-9 forms, as well as real estate purchase contracts.
Say you get a PDF tax form from your company, complete with the logo and correct information. Be careful — it could be fake.
How to stay safe
There are a few ways to avoid getting scammed when filing your taxes:
- Don’t click links or open attachments in unsolicited or suspicious emails claiming to be from the IRS or other government agencies.
- Don’t call back or take any other action if you receive a voicemail or text message from a sender claiming to be from the IRS and demanding payment.
- Watch out for red flags such as spelling and grammar errors.
- Use two-factor authentication for accounts that offer it and password managers for better security.
- Check out these 12 tricks the IRS says every taxpayer needs to know about.
Need to contact the IRS?
If you’re not sure about a document or just need some assistance, contacting the IRS is a good idea. Don’t be so quick to call that number at the bottom of an email message, however. Scammers commonly impersonate companies to get you to call and hand over personal information, and not even the IRS is safe.
Here are the official contact numbers taken directly from the irs.gov site:
- For individuals: 800-829-1040
- For businesses: 800-829-4933
While we can’t help you out with long wait times, we can at least make sure you’re calling the right people!
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