Reprinted from The Department of Homeland Security's "Stop. Think. Connect." Campaign's April 2016 Update.
Tax season is prime time for cyber crime. As millions of Americans file their taxes online, cyber criminals may look to steal your personal information and cash in on your tax refund. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning Americans that they have already seen a 400% surge in tax-related phishing and malware incidents this season.
Unfortunately, filing a fraudulent tax return online is easier than you might think. Cyber criminals only need a name, date of birth, and a Social Security number. Online thieves will find creative ways to steal this information from you and find ways to break into your devices or accounts to steal your online life, including phishing scams.
As always, be on the lookout for unsolicited emails, texts, and social media posts that ask you to share valuable personal and financial information. Some of these may be from people claiming to be IRS agents. Armed with your personal information, online thieves can access your sensitive accounts or commit identity theft.
The Stop.Think.Connect.™ Campaign encourages all Americans to take these steps to protect yourself from tax fraud:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to an established, trusted entity.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS or tax preparation services. These websites can look quite legitimate so do your due diligence in spotting a fake.
- Beware of promises offering “free money” from inflated refunds.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely.
- Only share personal information over a secured network.
If you have been a victim of identity theft in general, report such incidents to the Federal Trade Commission at www.IdentityTheft.gov.
The IRS offers tips for filing taxes online; visit IRS.gov/Filing to learn more.
Visit the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign to find resources for how to stay safe online atwww.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.