NORFOLK, Va. - Tax season is underway and cyber-criminals are working around the clock to steal your information and hard-earned money.
The National Cyber Security Alliance reports that in 2018, the Internal Revenue Service saw a 60% increase in bogus emails schemes trying to steal money or tax data.
They are urging folks to be vigilant for unsolicited emails, texts, and fake websites that prompt people to click on a link to share information. That information can allow criminals to steal money and commit identity theft.
There's also concern about callers claiming to be IRS employees who use fake names and phony ID numbers. In most cases, the IRS rarely calls taxpayers and instead initiates contact via the U.S. Postal Service.
The IRS offers information on how consumers can avoid tax schemes here.
In addition, the National Cyber Security Alliance has these tips to avoid falling victim to a fraudster:
• When in doubt, throw it out: Criminals can get access to your personal information by tricking you into downloading attachments or clicking on links in email. If an email seems suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete.
• Lock down your login: Thwart thieves by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, often called multi-factor or two-factor authentication. Most major email and online tax preparing services have this tool available.
• Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Public wireless networks are not secure. If you are filing your taxes online make sure you are doing it on a secure and personal network.
• Think before you act: Be leery of communications that implore you to act immediately – especially if you are told you owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly.
• Ask if your tax preparation service has checked for malware issues and if your tax preparer’s business is cybersecure. Businesses of all sizes are susceptible to cyber thieves so it is critical they have a strong cybersecurity posture by following these NCSA-recommended steps.