June 16, 2024

With Tax Day just days away, the recent study by McAfee reveals the state-by-state impact of tax-related digital scams as taxpayers across the whole country rush to settle their returns and await refunds.

  • States that boast the highest percentage of recipients of scam messages about tax returns, with a harmful link to the alleged refund or statement include Texas (68%), New York (62%), California (50%), Alaska (44%), and Arkansas (36%).

  • Data from McAfee Labs uncovers the 5 major markets for malware by volume: 1) Chicago, 2) Houston, 3) New York, 4) Denver, and 5) Seattle.

  • States with residents who are overconfident about their ability to identify scams, while also falling for these scams at high rates are: 1) Texas, 2) New York, 3) Colorado, 4) Florida, and 5) Alaska.

SAN JOSE, California, April 10, 2024–(BUSINESS WIRE )–On this day, McAfee, an international leader in digital protection, released the results of the 2024 Tax Scams Study. This survey, carried out by research firm 3Gem, surveyed 2,500 adults across the United States to understand the effects of tax-related cyber frauds involving AI-driven messages and deepfake audios or visuals, within all 50 states.

The findings underscore, among other aspects, variations in the propensities of individuals across states to click on deceitful messages purporting to provide details about refunds or impersonating tax preparation services or tax authorities. As the deadline for tax filing approaches, this trend will likely become even more conspicuous. Early filers awaiting refunds are particularly vulnerable, along with last-minute taxpayers searching for tax preparation services to accelerate their filing process.

The regional differences reveal where people are more prone to giving into temptation and clicking on fraudulent links, exposing themselves to potential financial loss or identity theft. Some residents are more cautious and oblivious to messages that could be from potential scammers, while others are more inclined to click on these deceitful links.

The study by McAfee further shows that one in four Americans (25%) have suffered financial losses to online tax scams, with the average amount lost being a whopping $8,199. This demonstrates how high the stakes are during this tax season.

The Refund Clicking Capitals, or the states with the highest percentage of people receiving a deceitful email or text message about “your tax refund” or “tax refund e-statement” who went ahead to click on a fraudulent link to a supposedly fake refund or statement are:

  • Alabama, Colorado, and New York (tie): 94%

  • Georgia: 92%

  • Rhode Island: 91%

  • Arkansas and West Virginia (tie): 89%

  • Florida, Iowa, and Texas (tie): 88%

  • The Tax Preparation Clicking Capitals, the states with the highest percentage of people who have clicked on a deceitful link in a message falsely claiming to be from a tax preparation software firm are:

    To be continued…

  • West Virginia: 88%

  • Texas: 87%

  • Colorado: 74%

  • New York: 71%

  • Massachusetts and Idaho (tie): 67%

  • “As Tax Day approaches, a lot of taxpayers are likely feeling stressed due to the burden of impending deadlines. Opportunistic scammers are exploiting these heightened emotions, seducing their victims with the promise of facilitating their filing process, getting faster refunds, or an urgent requirement to provide information,” stated Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer at McAfee. “Additionally, the issue is exacerbated by the fact that AI-generated fake tax websites and automated calls are becoming increasingly credible, even including features like appropriate regional accents and speech patterns that are causing consumers to trust the scammers, provide them with personal details, or fall for their scams.”

    Some states are particular hotspots for tax scam attempts. From one side of the country to the other, there are large differences in the frequency of scam attempts to convince people to disclose sensitive personal and financial data. The lists below highlight the unique difficulties that residents of various states encounter while trying to protect themselves against tax season cybercriminals.

    Top 5 Hotspots for Tax Refund Swindles
    These states have the highest percentage of people who claim to have received a deceitful message about “your tax refund” or “tax refund e-statement,” containing a link to the supposed refund or statement.

  • Texas: 68%

  • New York: 62%

  • California: 50%

  • Alaska: 44%

  • Arkansas: 36%

  • Top 5 IRS Impersonation Hotspots
    States with the highest percentage of people who claim to have received a deceitful message that claimed to be from the IRS or a state tax authority.

  • Texas: 74%

  • New York: 70%

  • California and Alaska (tie): 62%

  • Colorado: 56%

  • Arkansas and Georgia (tie): 52%

  • Certain states are aptly named Deepfake Detective states, with residents exhibiting overconfidence in their ability to detect scams.

    Residents of some states have a high degree of confidence in their ability to spot tax scams online, while others grapple with distinguishing between what’s genuine and what’s counterfeit, especially given the increasing realism of frauds. However, confidence doesn’t necessarily ensure immunity from scams; often, such confidence is misplaced. The lists below offer insights into states where residents excel in identifying tax scams accurately while illustrating the states facing significant challenges in this area – all of whom might benefit from more awareness and education.

    Top 5 Confident Deepfake Detector States
    States with the highest percentage of inhabitants who are confident that they can identify a deepfake video or AI-generated audio that features a synthetic version of an IRS agent or other tax authority.

  • Texas and Alaska (tie): 78%

  • New York: 70%

  • Louisiana and Florida (tie): 62%

  • West Virginia, Rhode Island, Montana, and Illinois (tie): 60%

  • Wyoming, North Carolina, and Idaho (tie): 56%

  • Top 5 Skeptic States in Deepfake Detection
    States with the highest percentage of inhabitants who doubt they could identify a deepfake video or AI-generated audio that features a synthetic version of an IRS agent or other tax authority.

  • Vermont: 72%

  • South Dakota: 66%

  • New Jersey, Iowa, and Indiana (tie): 62%

  • New Mexico: 60%

  • Wisconsin, Utah, Missouri, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Kentucky, and Delaware (tie): 58%

  • About McAfee

    McAfee Corp. is a worldwide leader in digital protection for consumers. The company’s priority is to protect people, their