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Online Tax Time Scams: How to Avoid

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Filing your taxes online is convenient but also comes with some potential security problems. My job as an expert in all things online-security is to spell out what these online tax scam risks are and how to avoid them. As you get ready to file your taxes this year, here are some things you should know about.

There were billions of fraudulent refunds that the IRS discovered for just 2012. Both consumers and business owners (small to medium) are being targeted by hackers during tax time. Following are tax time scams that are related to online filing:

  • Phishing: If you get an unsolicited email that seems to be from the IRS or similar, requesting personal information (especially bank account information, passwords or PINs) or claiming you’re being audited, it’s time to smell a big rotting phish. The IRS will never contact you via email, text message or social media. Make sure you don’t click on any links or open or download any attachments if you even suspect that the message is fake. Report any time of phishing to phishing@irs.gov.
  • The fake IRS agent: Crooks will pose as IRS agents and contact you by email or phone. They’ll already have a few details about you, probably lifted off your Facebook page, using this information to convince you they’re the real deal. If you sense a scam, go to IRS.gov/phishing.
  • The rogue tax preparer: It’s best to use a reputable tax return service, rather than an independent-type preparer. After all, some of these preparers have been known to charge extra high fees for getting you a bigger return, or steal some of your refund.

Additional Tips for Online Tax Time Scam Protection

  • Protect your data. From the moment they arrive in your mailbox, your personal information (financial institution numbers, investment records, Social Security numbers, etc.) must be secured. Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure of the recipient.
  • Chuck the papers. Opt for electronic statements to be received via email to eliminate paper statements coming into your mail box where thieves could get at them.
  • Check and monitor your statements. To ensure that you’re not a victim, the best thing to do is to monitor you monthly bank statements and do a credit report at least once a year.
  • Use a clean machine. Make sure that the computer you use is not infected or compromised. The operating system and browser should be updated. It should have comprehensive, up to date security software, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects all your devices, you data and your identity.

If you’re vigilant and follow these guidelines and you won’t have to deal with online (or offline) tax time scams. You can also watch this video from the IRS.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! (Disclosures)

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