June 15, 2024

With the deadline for this year’s tax return looming, safety experts advise late filers to be cautious. It’s important to ensure you don’t become a victim of tax scams that could rob you of your rebates or personal details.

Invert this article is part of Taxes 2024, CNET’s comprehensive report on premium tax software, insightful taxation advice, and everything else you need to file your tax returns and monitor your refund accurately.

For most parts of the country, the deadline for federal income tax filing this year is April 15. However, inhabitants of Massachusetts and Maine have until April 17 due to the local holidays. The closer you inch towards the deadline, the higher the chances you have of being ensnared by tax-related cybercrime.

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Those rushing to meet the tax deadline are vulnerable to making hasty decisions that could leave them open to scams. Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, advises such individuals to take their time even when selecting tax preparation options. By exercising caution when dealing with suspicious links or sharing personal information online, one reduces their vulnerability to financial scams or identity theft.

Unsolicited tax return assistance offers lure taxpayers with the possibility of substantial refunds. It’s best to view these with a healthy amount of suspicion.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology now makes it increasingly difficult for us to identify scammers. Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop Security, explains that the enhanced ability of fraudsters to deploy complex scams at scale due to technology is an added concern for taxpayers.

Sherrod DeGrippo from Microsoft’s threat intelligence strategy unit warned of scammers setting up counterfeit websites pretending to be recognized tax preparation and financial services companies to deceive individuals into disclosing sensitive tax information.

Fraudsters often pose as the IRS officials via phishing emails, text messages, or even phone calls. They usually threaten those who don’t comply with severe penalties or imprisonment.

The IRS only communicates through the U.S. Postal Service. Any other form of communication indicates a potential scam.

“The IRS will never use email as the primary mode of contact,” DeGrippo stated. “Neither will they resort to text messages or any social media platform.”

Demands for tax payments in the form of gift cards or cryptocurrency are clear indications of fraudulent scams.

Tips to being vigilant during tax season

The IRS recommends early filing as one of the best defenses against potential fraud. The sooner individuals file their returns, the less time scammers have to exploit their identities.

If you receive unsolicited emails or text messages claiming to be from the IRS, it’s best to avoid engaging with such messages. Balasubramaniyan advises against clicking on included links or opening attachments, and certainly not sharing personal information such as your Social Security number or tax ID.

The IRS also provides an identity protection PIN to taxpayers who can verify their identities. This unique six-digit code prevents cyber criminals from filing fraudulent tax returns in your name.

In the event you discover someone else has filed a tax return using your name, immediately report to your local law enforcement body and the Federal Trade Commission. Keep a close eye on your credit reports and account statements, and if possible, request a freeze on your credit to prevent anyone from applying for new credit under your name.

When managing your tax-related documents and accounts, always use strong passwords and activate 2FA (two-factor authentication). In addition, ensure all your operating systems and antivirus software are updated, and back up your tax information securely.

Whether you’re handling your taxes by yourself or hiring a professional, make sure you’re dealing with a trustworthy service or individual. Do your groundwork by checking credentials and qualifications via the IRS’s Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers.

All your old tax documents should be shredded. Don’t consider throwing them away or recycling.