While there is no time of the year when we are completely free of scams and fraud attempts, there are times of the year that typically evoke certain types of scams. For example, during back to school time, there can sometimes be an uptick in reports of child identity theft due to all of the forms that require sensitive information. The end of the calendar year might show more medical identity theft as scammers sneak in under the radar before your deductible starts over in January.
There might be no more significant danger zone for identity theft, scams, and fraud than tax filing season. The timeframe extends from the moment tax returns can be submitted in January, all the way through (and even beyond) the mid-April filing deadline. This type of identity theft has been a multi-billion-dollar-a-year crime, all thanks to scams and fraud.
There are a wide variety of ways that tax scams and fraud can impact both individuals and consumers. According to findings presented in a recent report written by the Identity Theft Resource Center with sponsor Generali Global Assistance, tactics like large-scale data breaches, malware, and spearphishing attacks are just a few of the avenues to tax return fraud.
- Large-Scale Data Breaches –In 2017, a single breach exposed more than 143 million Social Security numbers. With that piece of information and a few other details, a scammer can file a fraudulent return in your name and have the hefty refund paid out to a prepaid debit card. Once that happens, that money is gone for good.
- Malware Attacks – To steal your refund, the thief has to have a few key pieces of sensitive personal information. What better way to get that information than to steal it right off your computer? A thief writes or purchases malware software that is designed to infiltrate a computer system and carry out certain tasks. With the right tools, the thief can distribute this malware to hundreds or thousands of email users at a time. Opening the email and clicking on the link it contains installs that malware, letting the thief have access to information stored on your computer.
- Spearphishing – Also referred to as “boss phishing” or “CEO phishing,” can net a thief a lot of complete identities all at once. By hacking or mirroring an email address for someone high up within a company, the thief emails someone else within the company with specific instructions to reply with sensitive files. The recipient, thinking they’re acting on the boss’ orders, sends back an attachment with all of the payroll records or W2s, for example. The thief ends up with the personal identifiable information for everyone in the company, and then files fraudulent returns in their names.
To fight back against tax identity theft, scams and fraud, it’s important to file as early as possible, especially if you have reason to believe your identity or personal data has been compromised. If you attempt to submit your legitimate return but have it rejected for being a duplicate—meaning someone has already filed one in your name—there are a number of resources to turn to for help. One option for consumers who have fallen victim to tax fraud to consider is purchasing identity protection that includes comprehensive resolution services. In addition, the IRS has a victim assistance portal to lead consumers in the right direction resolving the fraud, and the Identity Theft Resource Center has resources and professionals to get victims started as well.
Generali Global Assistance proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.