Approximately 1 in 18 Americans have their identities stolen each year. Among the many identity theft scams is an emerging hoax in which cybercriminals obtain remote control of computer systems to hack into sensitive employee information to steal identities. Thieves will then use a stolen social security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. Criminals may also use stolen employer identification numbers to create false Forms W-2 to support refund schemes. This threat is particularly relevant to office settings, so be sure that you and your employees are using proper precautions at work to avoid being victimized.
Scammers use a variety of methods to enter computer systems, often through the use of malicious software, such as viruses, worms, Trojans, adware, spyware and ransomware. This threatening software has the potential to impact not only you, but your employees and business clients as well.
To protect yourself and your office from malicious software, all of your employees should have anti-virus software installed and maintained on their computer at all times. When selecting an anti-virus program, be sure to only install it from sources you trust. You may also want to consider placing certain IT restrictions on employees regarding what types of software they can install.
You’ll want to review any software that your employees use to remotely access your network and that your IT vendor uses to support your systems and remotely troubleshoot technical problems. Remote access software is a potential target for scammers to gain entry and take control of a device.
Top Tax Scams: IRS warns to be vigilant
Each year, the IRS releases their “Dirty Dozen” list of the year’s most prevalent tax scams. Here are a few:
- Identity Theft. These scams are especially prevalent during tax season. During the 2015 tax season, there was a significant rise in the number of identity theft cases. The IRS has taken major strides to protect taxpayers from the threat of identity theft during the upcoming tax season.
- Telephone Scams. Callers impersonating IRS agents will contact victims and threaten them with police arrest, deportation, license revocation and more. Remember, the IRS will never initiate contact with a phone call.
- Phishing. Phishing scams use unsolicited emails or fake websites made to appear legitimate but are intended to steal your personal information. Remember, the IRS will never send you an unexpected email about a bill or tax refund.
- Return Preparer Fraud. Dishonest tax return preparers have been known to set up shop and steal personal information from their clients.
- Inflated Refund Claims. Be cautious of any supposed tax return preparers promising a large refund. Do not use the services of anyone who asks you to sign a blank return, promises a big refund before looking at your tax records or changes fees based on a percentage of the refund.
- Fake Charities. Groups have been known to masquerade as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors.
For the entire listing of scams, visit irs.gov.