The 2021 tax season may be more scam-ridden than previous years. The Covid-19 pandemic has created an enhanced threat landscape. Specifically, the great migration to remote work and school means new vulnerabilities on the cybersecurity front, and as always hackers are standing by ready to exploit them.
Always a time of heightened risk, our new circumstances this tax season don’t necessarily mean different kinds of fraud. While we need to remain focused on the usual suspects: Phishing, spearfishing, credential stuffing and other identity-related crimes.
There are some proactive steps we can take to minimize the risk of tax-related fraud.
What to do:
- Get your one-use PIN code from IRS.gov. Anyone can get one.
- File your taxes as soon as you can.
- Use a secure file transfer service to send tax documents.
- Beware requests to send documents to fax numbers–always verify requests before transmitting data.
- Use an encrypted thumb drive to store tax-related documents, and delete tax-related information from your computer and email after scanning and or transmitting.
- Scan anything! Often the last thing scanned is stored in a device. You can avoid this sort of compromise by scanning something non-sensitive after you scan sensitive documents.
- Old devices need to be erased before you discard them, since they contain sensitive data.
- Practice extreme caution clicking on links and opening PDFs, even if they come from someone you know or a sender you trust. Always call to make sure a link or attachment is legit.
- Consider using and asking your tax preparer to use the password function on any PDFs being transmitted digitally.
What does a hack look like?
- It could look like an error: If you’re filing electronically through a tax professional, make sure your bank account and routing number is correct and not pointing your tax refund to a scammer’s account.
- Beware of anyone who calls or emails you claiming to represent the IRS. The IRS only communicates via snail mail.
- If you receive an unexpected tax return from the IRS, report it immediately. Scammers sometimes send funds and then call posing as the IRS requesting their return.