Lexington, Ky.- Expect to receive fraudulent emails this tax season, University of Kentucky Chief Information Security Officer Michael Carr cautions.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently warned consumers about email scams that are designed to steal identities and rob taxpayers of their tax refunds. The consumer alert was released after the IRS saw nearly a 400% increase in phishing and malware incidents so far this tax season and reports of scams targeting others in the tax community.
The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes may ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.
How to detect a potential scam:
- An email that appears to be from the IRS (the IRS does NOT send emails).
- Poor English syntax and/or grammar within the message.
- An unspecified sender or links that ask you to click on any address (a uky.edu or a non-uky.edu address) or any website URL for “secure verification.”
- A fake reply address
- An email that contains a threat or sense of urgency if action is not taken immediately
Steps you can take to protect yourself from identity thieves:
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update itself. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer.
- Use strong passwords.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card company and even the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your social security card and make sure your tax records are secure. Treat your personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.
Visit www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4524.pdf for additional steps.