Have you made it through April Fools' Day without getting pranked? Good for you.
Now be sure you don’t fall for a costly tax scam as the 2017 filing season winds down.
Tax criminals are looking to steal identities and then use them to file for fraudulent tax refunds from not just taxpayers, but also the tax preparers who help us file.
On Friday, March 31, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax departments and the tax industry — collectively known as the Security Summit, which was formed back in March 2015 to fight growing tax crimes — warned tax professionals of tax schemes in general, as well as the resurgence of phishing email scams claiming to be from IRS e-Services.
This time of year, as millions look to wrap up their annual filing duties, is the high season for identity thieves scams to steal sensitive data from tax professionals, note Security Summit members.
Tax pros targeted again: As March wrapped up, the IRS noted a particular surge in the phishing email scam that seeks to steal practitioners' usernames and passwords for IRS e-Services.
This scheme first appeared back in January. The subject lines on these fake emails vary, but they generally are related to e-Service account closures. Some examples include:
- Account Closure!
- e-Service Account is Blocked
- Few Hours to Close Your Account
- Your Account is Closed
- Your Account is Terminated
- 24Hrs to Block Your Account
The scam emails bear a fake "IRS gov e-Services" signature.
The criminal electronic messages also contain links that, if clicked, send practitioners to a fake e-Services login page where thieves can steal the real tax pros' credentials.
IRS efforts spur crooks' response: Ironically, the thieves are motivated by IRS efforts to increase protections for e-Services. Recently, the federal tax agency encouraged tax professionals to revalidate their identity to avoid delays accessing their e-Services accounts.
If you're a tax professional and discover that your e-Services account has been closed because of failure to revalidate, you should contact the e-Services Help Desk to have it reopened.
The IRS and I are sure all y'all know this, but if you're ever in doubt about the validity of emails, never open a link or attachment contained in the message. Instead go directly to the e-Services website.
The IRS also recommends that tax professionals change and strengthen their own email passwords to better protect their email accounts used to exchange sensitive data with clients.
Individual filers also are scam targets: Individual taxpayers also should be on guard for phishing schemes.
This is also the time of year when taxpayers may see scam emails purporting to come from their tax software provider asking them to update online accounts. The fake phishing messages also are sent as if from familiar organizations such as banks, credit card companies and even the IRS.
These ruses generally try to get you to divulge sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers and bank account or credit card numbers.
Whenever you're asked via email for such personal and financial data via email, stop.
Never open an attachment or link from an unknown or suspicious source. Definitely don't respond.
If you do have some legitimate concern that your real tax pro might be seeking added info from you regarding your return, call him or her directly.
Then forward the suspicious tax emails purporting to the IRS at email@example.com and delete them from your inbox.
That way you won't be an April Fool today or any day of the year.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Watch out for the Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2017
- 4 tax cyber security tips from IRS, NY tax officials
- 5 ways to protect your identity (& money!) during National Tax Security Awareness Week