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Sunday December 11, 2016

Washington News

Washington Hotline

IRS Advice on Phishing Scams

In IR-2016-160 the IRS explained the best taxpayer defenses against phishing scams. During the 2016 filing season, the IRS reported a 400% increase in malware or phishing.

A primary strategy from scammers is to appear to be from the Department of Treasury or the IRS. A common IRS phishing scam asks you to confirm information about your tax refund, filing status or other personal information such as your PIN.

A new scammer approach is to claim to be from your tax software company. The scammer will ask you to verify your tax software account.

The IRS urges all taxpayers during the 2017 tax filing season to be on the lookout for several specific strategies.

1. Link to Website – A scammer will claim that you need to confirm your account status. Do not click on the link. It will take you to a scammer site and download malware on your computer.

2. Attachment – If you do not know the sender of the email, do not click on the attachment. It is likely to be infected with malware. If you click on the attachment and load the malware on your computer, it may send information to the tax scammer. This information could include your login account names and passwords for various financial accounts.

3. From "Treasury or IRS" – A scammer may attempt to represent a government agency. Be cautious of any email that appears to come from a government agency but may have an unusual web address.

4. From a "Friend" – Some scammers start by hacking into email accounts. After they discover the friends or family that you are regularly emailing, they send an email to you that appears to be from that friend or family member. If you are uncertain about any email, do not click on any links or attachments.

5. False "Lookalike" URL – The email web address may look like an official uniform resource locator (URL). A scammer may use www.irs.gov.falseaddress.com. The falseaddress.com URL may be from a site overseas. With most browsers, you can hold your curser over a web address to see the actual web name.

As the tax filing season in 2017 approaches, everyone should understand the best practices to protect themselves against tax scammers.

Published December 9, 2016

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