It’s tax season and while you’re prudently gathering your personal documents in anticipation of Monday, April 18 — the tax-filing deadline for the IRS and most states — you should also watch out for tax scams to avoid tax-return fraud and identity theft.
Here are a few tips to follow:
- Be on the lookout for phishing attacks
Cybercriminal creativity is on the rise and phishing lures are arriving in every imaginable context including emails, phone calls, text and instant messages, and even Google Doc comments! Don’t let cybercriminals lure you into releasing your sensitive data. If you suspect any form of a phishing attack, do not click any links or open any attachments. For a recent tax-related phishing campaign, see Attackers Target Intuit Users by Threatening to Cancel Tax Accounts.
- File your taxes ASAP
The IRS accepts only one Social Security number (SSN) per tax return, so filing early eliminates the threat of a fraudster submitting another return in your name with your SSN. Watch out for ransomware, which targets digital tax files to prevent taxpayers, like you, from accessing your tax files until you pay the hacker’s ransom. Even after paying the ransom, the hacker can steal your identity, file your tax returns in your name and divert your tax refund from your designated account. File early to narrow the cybercrime window!
- Be careful when sharing sensitive data
Know who you are communicating with before you provide sensitive or personally identifying information (PII) such as your SSN, bank account number, name, or passwords. If you receive an email, text or phone call claiming to be from the IRS, you are being phished! The IRS initiates most contact via regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. See How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.
- Stay informed
Pay attention to news articles and alerts such as the IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts. Keep up with the new, sophisticated and creative ways hackers can trick you into revealing your sensitive data.
- Protect tax documents
After you have submitted your return successfully, make sure you secure your tax documents by placing all related papers in a fireproof safe and encrypting their digital files. Per the IRS, make sure you keep all tax records for at least three years.
- Get an Identity Protection PIN
North Carolina is one of the many states participating in the Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) program. The IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to verify their identity when submitting their federal tax forms. It helps to prevent someone from filing a fraudulent federal income tax return with your SSN.
- Update operating systems and software
Keep operating systems and software current on all of your internet-connected devices. Turn on automatic updates. As soon as you’re prompted, perform the updates and reboot.
Note: If you use Chrome as your internet browser, be on the lookout for an Update alert in the upper right corner. Be sure to update Chrome as soon as you see that prompt, as each update protects you and the Pack from bad actors trying to exploit known vulnerabilities.
- Follow all university procedures to secure your mobile devices
One of the biggest security challenges for NC State is the continuous onslaught of hackers maliciously targeting mobile devices. See Mobile Security at NC State for procedures to safeguard your mobile devices.
If you suspect you’re a victim of identity fraud, file a report with each of the following:
- Local law enforcement agency
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus; request a “fraud alert” for your account with all three credit bureaus.
For additional security information, refer to:
- IRS Dirty Dozen
- Taxes. Security. Together.
- North Carolina Department of Justice – Tax Time Tips – Tips to Consider when Filing your Taxes
- Fraud Alert! Beware of Common Tax Scams
- New Year, New Privacy Settings
- National Cybersecurity Alliance – Spam & Phishing
- Federal Trade Commission – How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams
- FTC – Americans lost $770 million from social media fraud surge