Identity theft and online fraud are on the rise during tax season as millions of Americans now file their taxes online. In the 2016 tax season, the IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents targeting tax filers. Sophisticated cybercriminals are looking to steal your identity and fraudulently claim your tax refund, making it critical to stay extra vigilant in the coming weeks.
It is easier than you might think for criminals to claim tax returns fraudulently. In most cases all they need is your name, social security number, and date of birth. During tax season, and year-round, consumers should be very cautious about sharing personal information online. Consumers should not trust any text messages, emails, or phone calls from anyone claiming to represent the IRS and asking to share personal information.
The IRS does not use electronic communications, such as email, text messages and social media channels, to initiate contact with taxpayers to request personal or financial information.
The Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign encourages you take the following measures to protect yourself against online tax fraud:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to an established, trusted entity.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS or tax preparation services. These websites can look quite legitimate so do your due diligence in spotting a fake.
- Beware of promises offering “free money” from inflated refunds.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely.
- Only share personal information over a secured network.
For more tips on staying safe online, please visit the Department’s Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign at www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
The IRS provides a Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, where you can learn more. To report suspicious online or email phishing tax scams, contact or 1-800-366-4484.
If you have been a victim of identity theft in general, report such incidents to the Federal Trade Commission at www.IdentityTheft.gov.