Every year about this time, cyber-criminal groups start to ramp up for the annual income tax fraud season. As we enter tax season, its good to remember the following tips to ensure your tax refund is not claimed by a scam artist.
IRS IP PIN
There is a new tool available to all of us this year. Anyone can, and should, for the IRS IP PIN. The IP PIN or Identity Protection Personal Identification Number presents anyone else from impersonating you to the IRS.
The IRS says the Get IP PIN tool will be available to any taxpayer by mid-January. You can prepare at the IRS by setting up an account through the secure access authentication process. Creating an account requires a lot of personal information that is listed here.
The signup process requires a mobile phone number in your own name. Voice-over-IP-based numbers such as those tied to Skype or Google Voice won’t work. If you don’t have a phone, the site will send an activation code via postal mail to your street address on file.
We have suggested the following tax fraud protections in previous posts. Here are some things to be watching for.
- W-2 reports phishing scam – This phishing scan usually targets company HR department personnel, with individually crafted emails that come from the hijacked business email account of a company officer, or sometimes of your tax accountant. Be wary of any requests for W-2 information that fall outside of the norm for your company.
- Your accountant is hacked – If your tax preparer’s computer is compromised, or his or her email account hijacked, they your tax information is available to cyber-scammers.
- Your accountant is NOT hacked – In this scam, you get an email from an accounting professional group that claims your accountant was one of many who were compromised. The phishing email is a scam designed to get you to click through to a web page that requests your personal information.
- You filed too late – When you file your taxes electronically, and the tax system says that your taxes have already been filed, then the criminals got there ahead of you, and filed for as big a refund as they could get. Your tax filings will be wrong, of course. When this happens you have to open a claim with the IRS, and file an amended report.
Last year in February the FTC released guidelines for taxpayers throuogh the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week webpage. It provided webinars and other resources from FTC and its partners over a week to help educate the public on how to protect against identity theft this tax season. I think February is too late to provide this information, so my recommendation is to review last year’s site, and sign-up for this year’s alerts.
Stay safe out there.
- Brian Krebs on ID PIN
- IRS Site for Creating an Account
- CISA’s Tip on Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft
- FTC’s article on Tax-Related Identity Theft
- Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft
- W-2 Phishing Scam Adds a New Twist to Wire Transfer Fraud – Crowdstrike
- When Identity Thieves Hack Your Accountant – Exploit This