By Bryan Becker (Product manager, WhiteHat Security)
Tax Day is a dreaded, recurring deadline on the calendar that many will put off and scramble to meet in time. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing everyone to do their taxes virtually, it is the perfect time for cybercriminals to deceive victims out of their hard-earned money and valuable personal and financial data. As you may have suspected, hackers are getting more sophisticated in their attempts to trick and steal leading up to Tax Day. This year alone, AppRiver reported a tax-themed phishing attack and an email campaign telling users their signed W-9 form was ready when it was actually infected with the Emotet trojan.
The following tips will help protect you during tax season this year and in the future:
1. File taxes early. Those that file early leave a smaller window of opportunity for adversaries.
2. Up your password strength. Do not reuse the same password on multiple sites. Create passwords that are hard to guess, change your passwords routinely and utilize multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
3. Be suspicious of any financial emails and their attachments. The IRS will never initiate contact through email, text or social media or through a phone call. If questionable, do not click any links or download software or apps or give any personal information to anyone claiming to be the IRS over the phone.
4. Prioritize updating software. Utilize security software that updates automatically, along with encryption programs to protect sensitive digital data.
5. Sign up for scam alerts. The FTC offers consumer email alerts as they uncover new scams, many of which are tax related.
As Tax Day comes and goes for 2020, remember that it is never too early to add extra protection to drastically reduce the chances you’ll fall victim to tax fraud for the years to come.