How to Prevent IRS Scams

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Written by: Robert Siciliano | Best Company Editorial Team

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Once a thief knows your Social Security number . . . you're at very high risk for having your identity stolen.

A report on bankrate.com says that the IRS is warning of a cyber attack on its electronic filing PIN application. Thieves infiltrated it with malware in an attempt to claim other people's refunds as their own. Over 450,000 SSNs were involved, and over 100,000 of them enabled the hackers to access an E-file PIN.

Endless scams are directed towards SSNs, like the classic phishing attack. A phishing attack basically goes as follows:

  • An e-mail arrives with an alluring or threatening subject line, which may actually be a warning to protect your SSN.
  • The e-mail looks legitimate, complete with logos and privacy information at the bottom.
  • The hacker's goal is to get you to fill out a form that includes typing in your SSN.
  • The FTC warns of a "Get Protected" subject line for the latest scam. This scam e-mail mentions the "S.A.F.E. Act 2015" that protects against fraudulent use of SSNs.
  • Like many phishing e-mails, the "Get Protected" one contains fake information.
  • These e-mails include a link that, when clicked, will release a virus, or take you to a website that will download a virus or lure you into revealing sensitive information.

Three Ways to Get Scammed

Most people make important decisions based on emotion. Cyber thieves know this, and they prey on fear, greed and generosity.

  • People aren't thinking straight when emotions are ruling. Logic gets swept under the rug. There's pressure to act quickly, such as helping the scammer (who pretends to be a grandchild of the victim) who was in an accident: wire money asap. Natural disaster scams prey on the desire to give. The emotion of greed is manipulated in "You've Won!" and inheritance scams.
  • Of course, before the fraudster plays with emotions like a cat playing with a mouse, he first gains your trust, pretending to like the same things you do, whatever it takes so that you don't question him.
  • Scammers are adept at appearing credible, such as tricking your caller ID into showing "IRS" or the name of your bank in the ID field. They may have a snazzy website up, a "badge number," noise in the background to simulate a call center, even a fake accent.
  • Remember, scammers are pros. It's going to seem legitimate.

 

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