Protect Yourself from Tax Season Phishing Scams
As tax season approaches, cybercriminals are ramping up their efforts to steal sensitive financial information from unsuspecting victims. One of the most common ways they do this is through phishing scams. In this blog post, we’ll explain what phishing scams are, how they target accountants during tax season, and what you can do to protect yourself.
Phishing scams are a form of social engineering where cybercriminals trick people into giving up their sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. During tax season, accountants are a prime target for phishing scams because of the large amount of sensitive financial information they handle.
What is a Phishing Scam?
Phishing scams typically involve an email that appears to come from a reputable source, such as a bank or government agency, but is actually a fake. The email will usually ask the recipient to click on a link or download an attachment, which will then install malware or take the victim to a fake login page where they enter their sensitive information.
How Phishing Scams Target Accountants During Tax Season
During tax season, cybercriminals will often pose as the IRS or tax software providers and send phishing emails to accountants. These emails may ask the accountant to download a tax form or update their tax software, but in reality, the attachment or link will install malware or take them to a fake login page. Once the cybercriminal has access to the accountant’s login credentials, they can steal sensitive financial information from their clients.
Real-Life Scenario #1: The Fake IRS Email
In one real-life scenario, a cybercriminal sent an email to an accountant claiming to be the IRS and asking them to update their e-file information. The email contained a link to a fake IRS website where the accountant was prompted to enter their login credentials. The cybercriminal was then able to steal sensitive information from the accountant and their clients.
Real-Life Scenario #2: The Malware-Infected Attachment
When the accountant opened the attachment, malware was installed on their computer, giving the cybercriminal access to all of their sensitive financial information.
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams
Here are some tips to help you protect yourself from phishing scams during tax season:
1. Be wary of any unsolicited emails, especially those that ask you to click on a link or download an attachment.
2. Check the sender’s email address to make sure it’s legitimate.
3. Don’t enter any sensitive information into a website unless you’re sure it’s legitimate.
4. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
5. Keep your software and antivirus programs up to date.
What should I do if I receive a phishing email?
If you receive a phishing email, do not click on any links or download any attachments. Instead, delete the email and report it to the appropriate authorities.
How can I tell if an email is a phishing scam?
Phishing emails often contain spelling and grammar errors, and the sender’s email address may be slightly different from the legitimate source. If you’re not sure, contact the sender directly to verify the email’s authenticity.
Can I recover my stolen financial information?
If your financial information has been stolen, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately. They can help you take steps to protect your accounts and recover any lost funds.
How can I protect my clients from phishing scams?
Educate your clients on the dangers of phishing scams and encourage them to use strong passwords and two-factor authentication. Use secure file sharing methods and avoid sending sensitive information over email.
Phishing scams can be costly and damaging, but by staying vigilant and taking the proper precautions, you can protect yourself and your clients from cybercriminals. If you have any concerns about the security of your financial information, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted financial advisor.
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Sources and Citations
1. IRS. “Tax Scams – How to Report Them.” https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/report-phishing
2. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts.” https://www.cisa.gov/tax-scams-and-consumer-alerts
3. Federal Trade Commission. “Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week.” https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/tax-identity-theft-awareness-week-2021