Tax Season Threats

by santonov on April 13th, 2007 in Security Alerts.

Hackers and phishers are giving tax payers another reason to dread tax season. Stressing out about filing your taxes on time may seem like a lot to deal with, but for those filing returns online, there are even more concerns.

For Americans, up against the quickly approaching April 17 tax-filing deadline, turning to the Internet may be the easiest solution. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service reported that 73 million tax returns were filed online in 2006, a 6.9 percent increase from 2005. The IRS is expecting another jump by 6.9 percent for this year, along with an increase in e-file returns sent in from home PCs.

The trouble is that online thieves are taking these growing numbers into account in order to steal sensitive personal information. If spyware or malware has wormed its way into your PC, the effects could be devastating when you're sending financial information online.

Social engineering tactics are another danger to contend with. Tax season phishing scams, where e-mails appear to be sent from the IRS in an attempt to bait computer users into sending financial information, are reportedly in full swing again this year. (Click on the image below to see a sample phishing e-mail from the IRS).

How can you e-file safely? As always, make sure your computer is secure - that means your operating system is patched and you have updated anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall programs.

To steer clear of social engineering dupes, you'll need to keep an eye on your inbox. According to the IRS, they do NOT initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail. U.S. taxpayers should also be aware that the official site of the Internal Revenue Service is IRS.gov; there have been warnings of deceptive websites with similar URLs that may charge for free services.

The IRS has more information about how to protect yourself from suspicious e-mails or phishing schemes.