CyberScout provides tips to help consumers spot and mitigate cyber scams
It’s National Consumer Protection Week and with the tax filing deadline just a few weeks away, it’s also peak season for tax-related fraud and identity theft. CyberScout, a global leader in identity theft resolution, data defense and employee benefits services, is urging consumers to be vigilant with their personal data and learn the “tell-tale” signs of a tax-related scam.
“Identity theft can happen at any time, but tax season presents a unique opportunity for criminals because the complexity of the process leaves many people feeling overwhelmed and uncertain if they have done everything correctly,” said Jennifer Leuer, Chief Executive Officer, CyberScout. “These emotions and consumers’ inherent desire to follow the rules with government agencies creates ideal conditions for social engineering attempts.”
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Following are CyberScout’s top consumer red flags of a tax-season scam:
- Beware of the four “ishings”. Identity thieves will use generic phishing emails, personalized spearphishing emails, vishing (voicemails) and SMishing (text messages) as avenues to pose as a trusted source like a bank or a tax provider.
- Faster Payment promises. Be wary of scammers posing as businesses that promise to get consumers their refunds faster. Vulnerable populations like non-native English speakers often fall victim to these scams, paying a fee for “services” that don’t exist and compromise their personal information.
- Outrageous claims. Social engineering is a common tactic in tax scams. Emails, texts, or phone calls that make outrageous claims such as the promise of a large refund or the threat of arrest should be treated as suspect. Do not click on any links or provide any personal information to those making such claims.
- Unsolicited contact from the IRS. The IRS will never initiate contact with a consumer by email, phone, text or social media. If you receive a call, text or email supposedly coming from the IRS, hang up and don’t click on any links. If there is reason to believe that the IRS may in fact be initiating contact, do not respond to the incoming message. Rather, contact the IRS directly to verify the situation.
- Threats to suspend a social security number. Consumers may receive calls claiming to be from the Social Security Administration stating that their social security number has been suspended. This ploy coerces consumers to return robocalls and verify sensitive personal financial information. Social security numbers are not ever suspended.
- Claims from Taxpayer Advocate Services. While IRS agents do offer this important resource, scammers are also using this angle to spoof caller ID to make the call appear to be coming from a legitimate hotline number to take advantage of vulnerable taxpayers in need of help to file and pay their taxes. Always verify and use original sources.
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“Cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated and making it nearly impossible to prevent becoming a victim,” continued Leuer. “Beyond education and a healthy dose of caution, the best thing consumers can do is obtain cyber insurance coverage. Employers are increasingly offering identity theft protection services and cyber insurance as part of their benefits package and insurance companies are writing more comprehensive cyber policies for businesses and individuals.”