Beware of holiday scams
The IRS recently announced that the holiday season is a prime opportunity for identity thieves to steal your personal financial information. The information is often used to file fraudulent tax returns.
Most people know about the threat of opening emails from potential scammers. However, many people need to be aware of the potential danger of opening text messages.
Smishers target cell phone users to retrieve their personal information. The scam messages may look like they are from the IRS. The messages often offer lures like tax credits, fake COVID relief, or help setting up an IRS online account. Smishing is becoming more commonly used by scammers.
Fictitious text scams with “smishing” schemes often increase during the holidays. Only reply to a text message from a phone number if you recognize the number. And never click on a link embedded within a text. It’s best to delete the text without opening it to avoid smishing.
Some of the smishing tactics include:
Impersonating a collections agency and threatening to hurt your credit score
Request for payments for an overdue bill
Attempting to confirm your banking information
Using a “Click here” in the text
Data thieves can also steal your information if you’re shopping online and use publicly accessible Wi-Fi. These thieves often sell tax preparer or taxpayer information on the internet to other crooks so they can file fraudulent tax returns. The stolen data can be difficult for the IRS to detect because the fraudulent returns use real financial information.
To prevent your data from being stolen:
Only shop in public places with secure Wi-Fi.
Shop at sites where the web address begins with “https.” The “s” is used to signify secure communications. The “padlock” icon in the browser window also indicates secure communications.
Ensure that computer anti-virus software has a feature to stop malware and that a firewall is enabled to prevent data theft.
Strong and unique passwords should be used for online accounts.
Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible to prevent thieves from hacking your accounts.
The IRS is also reminding people not to buy anything from online sellers that accept payments only by gift cards, cryptocurrency, or money transfers from companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. Scammers tell people to use these payment methods since they are almost impossible to trace.
“With holiday shopping starting and the 2023 tax season quickly approaching, many people will be using laptops and personal devices to share sensitive financial information,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Doug O’Donnell. “In the months ahead, these same devices will be used to complete millions of tax returns by both taxpayers and tax professionals, making the holiday season the perfect time to take steps to protect your valuable information and watch out for scams.”
You can report these IRS-related scams to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using caution can help to prevent your valuable information from being stolen.
David Zubler is a tax accountant and Enrolled Agent in East Tennessee, providing tax strategies and representing clients before the IRS and has over 25 years of tax experience. He is the author of six tax books and has shared tax advice on national TV. He is the founder and president of Your Tax Care. The company provides business and tax education, including David’s one-minute tax tip radio recordings at YourTaxCare.com. David can be reached at (865) 363-3019 or contacted by email at email@example.com.