Beware of Tax Season scams

Tax season is officially underway way. Taxes are due on May 17 this year. During tax season, the risk of scams increases with scammers targeting taxpayers and their data in order to file fraudulent tax returns, collect refunds, and engage in other identity theft schemes. Seattle Information Technology’s Security Team has a few warnings about what to look out for in the coming weeks: 

Scammers seek out tax information, including W-2 information and personally identifiable information (PII) – such as: 

  • Social Security numbers (SSNs) 
  • Dates of birth 
  • Bank account  
  • Credit card numbers 
  • Drivers’ license numbers 

They rely heavily on social engineering tactics conducted through email, phone, and text messages. These social engineering scams attempt to appear or sound convincing and authentic in order to trick recipients into disclosing sensitive information or credentials for online accounts. If they can steal a target’s data and identity, they can also steal their tax refund.  

Tax Identity Theft 

Scammers steal and use tax information, including SSNs, of unsuspecting taxpayers in several ways to file fraudulent tax returns and steal refunds. In order to acquire this information, threat actors may collect information exposed in a network compromise or data breach, or via social engineering campaigns. These social engineering campaigns are often email-based phishing scams that attempt to convince the recipient to divulge W-2 information or personal identifiable information (PII). Scammers often target HR and payroll personnel to request this information by impersonating a CEO or other executive. Scammers also may purport to be a trusted tax service and send phishing emails with links to spoofed websites that capture and steal information. Scammers may also send spoofed emails with tax documents available for download via legitimate services, such as DocuSign, to steal account credentials or other information. 

Once a scammer has access to this tax information, they possess everything necessary to pose as you and file a tax return in your name to claim a refund fraudulently.  

Keep Your Identity Safe 

If you use an online application to do your taxes, you can now log in with your username, password and a third personal item like a phone number. Using all three will keep your identity and data safer. 

For more tips, check out Taxpayer Guide to Identify Theft page on the IRS’ site.