April 2017: You receive an email from what appears to be the IRS, warning you that your tax return is unable to be processed due to errors. In order to avoid a tax penalty or possible legal action, you are instructed to provide some information immediately – click the link to get started.
Do you click the link?
The criminal behind this scam hopes you do. It’s known as phishing, and these scams steal millions of dollars each year, according to the FBI.
The IRS is warning taxpayers to be aware of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams you may encounter, available at irs.gov, such as false tax preparers, phone scams and phishing.
Phishing is when a fraudster sends an email message pretending to be a company, like the IRS, a bank or popular retail site. The email may claim your account has been compromised or there was an error with your recent purchase. It will direct you to click on a link to resolve the issue. The link leads to a fake website that looks authentic and you feel comfortable to enter sensitive information.
Learn to recognize telltale signs of phishing scams. Red flags include:
• Requests for personal information, such as your bank account number, account password, credit card number, PIN number, mother's maiden name or Social Security number
• Instructions to click on a link inside an email
• Obvious typos or grammatical errors
• Failure to address you by name
• Threats or intimidation to act immediately
The IRS does not initiate contact by email, text message or social media channels to request personal or financial information. They also will never call and demand immediate payment over the phone. If you get an email or phone call like this, it’s a scam.
Protect yourself with these tips.
Be skeptical. Assume every offer and notice (even from reputable companies) is a scam and take steps to confirm credibility.
“If you start with the assumption, this is a scam, then you’re less likely to fall victim if and when in fact it is,” said Gordon Rudd, RCB Bank Information Security Officer. “Fraudsters pretend to be companies we use every day. We click without thinking and presto, easy money for criminals.”
Do not click on links in emails. Go to the company’s official website to log in to your account.
“If you receive an alert stating there is something wrong with your account, do not click the provided link,” said Rudd. “Criminals use scare tactics to get you to ‘act now’ and ‘protect your information’ when in fact they’re leading you into a trap.”
Never give out personal or financial information to any request that you did not initiate. This includes bank account numbers, Social Security number, username, mother’s maiden name, challenge question answers or PINs - “If your bank sends you an email requesting you to update your information, DO NOT click on the link in the email,” Rudd warns. “Go to your bank’s official webpage and log in to your account. Fraudsters are sophisticated con artists.”
Report phishing emails and other scams immediately.
• To the company being impersonated
• To your bank so they can be on alert and closely watch your bank accounts for fraudulent activity
• To the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
See more about Be Aware: Fraudsters in Full Force this Tax Season: