Tax season has officially arrived, and the IRS has formally begun accepting returns. Individuals and businesses are working on gathering all the necessary documents to get tax refunds issued as soon as possible. The information that IRS needs to process refunds usually consists of documents issued by banks, employers, healthcare facilities, mortgage companies, charity organizations, and other institutions. Unfortunately, tax season is a busy season for cybercriminals, too – people sometimes take the guard down while under pressure and handling so many sensitive documents. Which sadly is an opportunity for bad actors to strike. Here are our suggestions on how to not become a victim.
Store tax documents in a safe place
Going through many documents while preparing to file a tax return often means that people digitize files with sensitive information such as SSNs, mortgage loan numbers, DOB, etc. Therefore, making sure that docs such as W2s are stored in a safe place is a must. If a tax preparer asks for documents, we advise individuals always to use security vaults or other trusted solutions to protect those files while transferring or storing them.
Go to a reputable tax preparer or use reputable online tax services
You may be tempted to use a local IRS volunteer who can help you file your taxes for free, but remember that this stranger suddenly has access to all your precious personal information that could be used maliciously. The same goes for websites promising help with returns – don’t use their services unless you are confident that the online service provider is honest.
Carefully check the status of your return
Hackers love spoofing IRS websites and getting people to reveal sensitive information. So only type your SSN and other sensitive information if you are 100% sure that the site you are on is genuine. Suppose you receive a suspicious email that promises faster tax refund times and invites you to create an account and share personal and banking information. In that case, you are likely being scammed by criminals trying to get a hold of your hard-earned money.
Hang up on scam calls
Never share personal information with callers claiming to be contacting you from the IRS. If you get a call from someone claiming to be working for the IRS and you suspect it may be a genuine call, it is better to hang up and call IRS directly using the number you see on their official website. This is how you will be sure that the person you are talking to is an IRS agent and not a scammer trying to steal your banking info.
Always check physical mail
Cybercriminals are not the only ones trying to get a hold of people’s hard-earned cash. During tax season, fraudsters search neighborhoods for IRS tax refund checks and sensitive information. Therefore, keeping an eye on your physical mailbox and ensuring you get your mail daily is a must if you wish to remain untouched.
While there’s only so much people can do to prevent the physical loss of documents, the most advanced antivirus software solutions protect individuals and businesses from scam calls, phishing emails, untrusty online service providers, and spoofed websites. Antivirus software is programmed to deflect the scammers before they have an opportunity to strike. Being protected saves you once but also ensures that the potentially stolen sensitive info does not end up circulating the dark web for years. While getting a new credit card is easy, changing a leaked SSN could be difficult.