February 13, 2020

Counting on Emotion: Tax Season Fraud

As tax season rolls around, it’s best to be aware of fraud trends that crop up during this time. This appears to be an especially popular time for phishers to hit the unsuspecting public.

Taxpayers are routinely subject to assault with spam and malware infections. The emotional triggers around filing taxes and communicating with authorities can prompt emotional responses.

Consider two emotions that are the subjects of a recent RSA report shared by Raymond James Information Security professionals. (RSA specializes in security and risk management.)

Those committing fraud in the tax season count on reactions to:

  • Anxiety – being faced with the (false) accusation of a rejected/fraudulent statement and wanting to rectify the issue
  • Sense of obligation – having to comply with the civil obligation to report to the taxation authorities

Campaigns extend into May and June with fake returns and rejected/fraudulent statements.

Malware attachments sent in the guise of tax statements, phishing emails from alleged tax authorities, and online tax-filing scams are among the potentially damaging exchanges. RSA says people are tricked into thinking they are “opening an online account, updating their personal information, contesting a fraudulent statement, or receiving a refund.”

If you receive a suspicious email, it’s best to delete it. A file sent in a fake email can be what is known as a Trojan executable. Check the file extension (.pdf followed by .exe). When opened, the malware will infect the PC. Emails that appear to come from an online tax filing service can contain a malware download disguised as a .zip file.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you can report the issue to a credit reporting agency to put an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free.

You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other credit reporting companies about your alert.

Being aware of potential scams is a good first step in fighting against fraud. For more information about these and other tax scams, visit the Internal Revenue Service website at www.irs.gov.

Please call us if you want to discuss tax fraud or other topics. We’re always here to help. Stay safe this tax season.

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