Ah, tax season. Shortly after the chaos of the year-end holidays and the refreshing new start that comes with the new year, we are forced to crunch numbers, do tedious paperwork and take a long, hard look at our own financial landscape of the year before. For the gifted few, taxes (and all the moving parts that make them come together) is a breeze. For others, preparing for tax season can leave more questions than answers, leading to a whole host of stressful uncertainties.
Tax season also brings around a whole new kind of stress, in the form of fake IRS workers and other tax scam fraudsters. Take a look at our list of tax scams to watch for in 2019, below.
Phone calls from the “IRS”
Over the past several years, an increasing amount of people have reported receiving phone calls from people claiming to work for the Internal Revenue Service. These impersonators call accusing the recipient of tax evasion, a past mistake or criminal intent. The only way for this innocent person to “fix” this inherent wrongdoing would be to give away their bank account information, to pay “immediately” over the phone.
No one from the IRS is ever going to call you. Period. Even if they did call you (which they won’t), they wouldn’t be bringing up an issue with your taxes from the year before – that would have been handled long prior, in an appropriate time frame, through appropriate means. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming they work for the IRS, tell them you will report them to the police if they continue to harass you. If they do continue to call, make good on your promise and get the police involved.
The threat of law enforcement intervention
One common component of these fraudulent IRS calls is the threat of law enforcement intervention if the recipient of the phone call refuses to pay. The impersonator will threaten immediate arrest – literally saying, “the police are on their way” – loss of license, deportation, the list goes on.
In the same vein as before, no one from the IRS is ever going to send the police or immigration officers to arrest you without any form of advance warning or communication.
Innocently enough, you may think that filing your tax return at your favorite coffee shop will make the whole process infinitesimally less tedious. However, doing so can render yourself vulnerable to hackers who want to steal your sensitive financial information you’re using to file your taxes, over whatever public Wi-Fi network or hotspot you’re connected to.
Public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous in several ways. They put you at risk for Man-in-the-Middle attacks, where a cyber attacker gets in between your computer and whatever you’re trying to communicate with and intercepts the information. Furthermore, public Wi-Fi networks found in coffee shops, airports or restaurants usually are unencrypted and don’t require a password to gain access. These networks are extremely easy for hackers to breach due to their lack of security protocols.
If you are filing your own taxes online (like with TaxSlayer or TurboTax), make sure to only visit sites with the HTTPS security badge located directly to the left of your website URL, and do so using your own private network or an established VPN.
Tax season is difficult enough, even without the malicious intervention of IRS impersonators and cyber hackers. Make sure to stay updated on the IRS’s guide to dealing with common and new tax scams and be check your forms and return closely before submitting.
Interested in reading further about financial security, cybersecurity and more? Check out the Secure360 blog for more helpful guides like this one.