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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How Can I Avoid Online Tax Scams?

Updated: 3 days ago


How to Avoid Virtual Kidnapping Scams.

Tax season is here again and criminals are after your personal information using social engineered attacks that are designed to make you fall for a variety of scams. Your personal information is like money and cyber crooks will do anything to get it. During this time of increased potential for having your personal information exposed, it’s very important to take steps to file your taxes safely. If you're looking to not have your data fall in to the wrong hands, check out these tips that will help you file your taxes safely and securely.


There are a variety of scams crooks will use to trick you:


AI-Based Scams: AI is an awesome tool as it can act as a virtual assistant to help you with a variety of things. Criminals also realize AI can help them craft the best scams to trick you. Be on the lookout for almost perfect scams that will come in the form of phishing, SMShing, and vishing scams. With AI criminals can clone the voice of authority figures or your tax preparer. They can also use AI to trick you into thinking you're talking to someone domestically. Use deepfake scams to trick you as well as the removal of mispelled words and poor grammar.


Watch for an increase in phishing, email, malware, and phone schemes: It's a good possibility your email address and phone number are sitting on the dark web. Keep an eye out for unsolicited emails, texts, social media posts, fake websites, or phone calls that might tempt you to click a link or share your personal and financial information. Cybercrooks will use your information to steal your money and your identity. Don't be tempted to click on unfamiliar links or attachments which can also contain links to ransomware and other malicious sites.


Tax preparer fraud: Most tax preparers are honest folks, but you can be sure some unsavory people will try to target you by posing as a tax preparer. Always do your homework when choosing a preparer. Always get references and verify that person has their IRS preparer identification number. Choosing the wrong person could mean ID theft for you, your business, and your family members.


Fraudulent tax returns: File your tax return as soon as possible. If you file early, it becomes impossible for a crook to file another return with your personal information. Remember,

the IRS only accepts one tax return per Social Security number.


IRS impersonation scams: You could experience callers who claim to be IRS employees calling and insist that you owe money and that it must be paid as soon as possible via gift card or wire service. In the past, criminals wouldn't leave a message if the call went to voicemail. Now, they leave an emergency callback message. The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment. They will mail you a bill if you owe money.


How to Protect Yourself

Here are some easy-to-use tips to help you protect yourself:


Think before you act. Modern cyber attacks are social engineered which means they are designed to make you react rather than think. If you get an email asking you act quickly, slow your roll, and think about if it's legit or fake.


File securely. Only submit your taxes on secure https websites but remember, just because a website URL contains https doesn’t mean the site is legitimate. Do some research before you just submit your information anywhere. Pick up the phone and call the preparer to verify the filing site.


File Your taxes early. Remember, the IRS will only accept one tax return per Social Security number. If you file early, it becomes virtually impossible for another tax return to be filed using your personal information.


Use a dark web scanning service. Several companies offer dark web scanning services. These services will scan the dark web for your personal information, such as your email address, name, and Social Security number. My favorite is www.haveibeenpwned.com. This service will let you know if you data is on the dark web. If you find out if your data is on the dark web, it's almost impossible to remove it. However, you can find out what information is available to thieves.


Turn on 2-factor authentication: You're probably using your email inbox as a file cabinet to store emails with important messages and attachments. Criminals will attempt to hack into your email to gain access to that information that could be used against you. To prevent this, enable 2-factor or 2-step authentication. Many popular email services and financial institutions provide this security option, in which you are prompted to enter a code (sent via text or email) after logging in.


Switch to using Passphrases: When you use short or easy-to-guess passwords, you are allowing criminals (and AI) to guess your passwords. Use a longer passphrase instead. Sample of passphrases is "RubberSunglasses341!" or "LiquidRice840!' which use a combination of capital and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. Need help creating passphrases, visit www.useapassphrase.com


If you don't need it, please delete it: Links in emails are often the way cyber thieves get access to your personal information. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails. Delete these messages.


Hopefully, this will help you safe from the variety of tax scams on the Internet. They will come in many forms, so think before you click. f you have any questions, please reach out. I'm always available.


Looking for More Useful Tips Tips?

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Want to ask me a tech question? Send it to burton@burtonkelso.com. I love technology. I've read all of the manuals and I'm serious about making technology fun and easy to use for everyone. 


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The above content is provided for information purposes only. All information included therein is subject to change without notice. I am not responsible for any direct or indirect damages, arising from or related to the use of or reliance on the above content.




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