Despite all the media attention, tax scams along with Identity theft continue to plague the american public, especially during tax time. In fact, according to MarketWatch the IRS has seen a “400% increase in phishing and malware this tax season” compared to last season. So, what mistakes are you making that could potentially cause you to fall victim?
Mistake #1: Emailing Sensitive Information
The one is a HUGE problem, and the one I am most passionate about. Since email is so ubiquitous and simple to use most of us don’t think twice about sending our personal information to our accountants, financial planners, bankers, attorneys, etc. The problem is that most email is not encrypted and therefore not secure. Even services like dropbox are questionable when it comes to sharing documents containing your social security number, account information, etc, particularly if you are not using two-step verification. Don’t get me wrong, having free email and using a file sharing service like dropbox is great, just don’t use email for sending any information someone could potentially use to access your accounts or credit cards, open accounts in your name, or file a return to claim your refund! Also, be sure to add the extra layer of protection with dropbox if you plan to use it. If you need to send sensitive documents or information regularly, you should upgrade from free email and document sharing to a more robust, secure and encrypted solution. However, if you only occasionally need to send this type of information electronically, the person requesting the information should have their own solution in place for you to collaborate with them. For example, at Weiss Financial Group we use the Secure Client Website by eMoney and our affiliate company Weiss, Orro, & Stern uses SmartVault. Make use of these tools, because the more precautions you take the less chance you have of becoming the next victim of ID theft or fraud.
Mistake #2: Responding to a Phone Call From the IRS Saying You Owe Them Money
First off, the IRS will NEVER call your house if you aren’t already working with an agent. So, if you come home and you have a threatening message on your answering machine (do people still have those?) DO NOT call them back. If by some lapse of judgement you do call them back, DO NOT give them your Social Security number or other personal info, and NEVER give them money. It is a scam! Surprisingly, this scam keeps popping up every year, and every year people fall for it. My wife and I actually came home to one of these messages on our answering machine last year (ok, I admit, I still have an answering machine!). Obviously we did not call them back, however the message sounded authentic and was quite threatening. Want to hear a sample of one of these phony messages? Click here to watch a video I found on YouTube of an actual message left on someone’s cell phone. To see what the IRS says about all this, click here for a short video from the IRS regarding these scams along with some helpful scam prevention advice.
Mistake #3: Clicking on an email from the IRS or a Bank Requesting Personal Information
Clicking on emails from unknown sources exposes you to all sorts of bad things including a potential computer virus. So, as tempting as it is, train yourself not to open them! As I said before, the IRS will not call you at home, likewise they will not email you asking for sensitive information. Unfortunately, emails are quite easy to forge and fool you into thinking they are authentic. Just remember that the IRS will not send you a threatening email, so if you receive one don’t open it, and definitely do not hit reply.
I hope this gives you the ammo you need to protect yourself from making any of these mistakes. Be alert and be smart. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out.
- This material was prepared, in part, by MarketingPro, Inc.