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Tax Season is Here: Is Your Return Secure?


Tax season is almost here! Are you ready to file? While preparing all the necessary documents and getting your ducks in a row can be time-consuming enough, it’s not the only downside of doing taxes. Did you know that cybercriminals also take this opportunity to increase their identity theft and fraud activities?

Whether they’re pretending to be from the IRS to you, or pretending to be you to the IRS, you can expect scammers to come out of the woodwork in the coming months, trying to compromise you this tax season.

What to Look Out For

From spam calls you can clock in a second to more conniving schemes, you need to tread carefully as tax fraud can do you serious damage. If they’re asking for money or access to confidential personal information that would gain them access to your bank account, you need to tread carefully.

What kinds of schemes do threat actors run during this time of year?

  1. W-2 form theft, commonly executed against accounting and managerial departments

  2. Vishing scams in which bad actors call pretending to be from the government demanding a fine or personal information like your Social Security

  3. False tax preparation sites that claim to help you file, then steal personal information

  4. Phishing scams insisting you click a link to complete tax forms, which then download malware when opened

So what exactly are criminals doing once they steal this information? They’ll often use your name and Social Security number to file fake income tax returns and receive your refund check. Identity theft can then lead to a series of other financial crimes.

What You Can Do

Learning how to protect yourself against tax scams matters. In 2020, the IRS reported $2.3B in tax fraud. The confusing nature of tax season can be made more stressful by concerns about threat actors. Protect yourself from tax-related scams with some of the following tips:

  1. Don’t give your Social Security number or employee ID over the phone

  2. Do not send money to solicitors without verifying the demand on encrypted government websites

  3. Enable multi-factor authentication on your accounts

  4. Use strong, complex passwords like those provided by secure password managers

  5. Download and update your antivirus software

  6. Protect your network with a secured VPN

The IRS automatically provides some of these protections on their website, for example, using a PIN to verify your identity when you’re filing electronically. Secure sites dedicated to helping you file usually have similar measures in place to protect your identity and personal information, and should be protected with an HTTPS:// at the beginning of the URL to verify that it’s secure.

If you suspect you’ve been compromised, report it to your state tax office and the IRS immediately. To avoid mistakes and missteps, consider using a third party company that helps you file seamlessly. You may be familiar with H&R Block, Turbotax, TaxAct or Credit Karma Tax. These services and others like them walk you through it and protect you from worrying which outside communications may be genuine.


Cybercriminals will steal hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your tax returns if they have the opportunity. Beware unsolicited calls for your social, emails asking for info verification, and other suspicious activity that you believe may be an attempt to mess with your taxes this year. Otherwise you could win up shorted on money and in long conversation with the IRS.

Before the filing deadline this April, take these steps into consideration whether you’re sending your return in online or by mail. Fraudsters may still reach out to contact you, pretending to need additional verification or for you to resend some information. When in doubt, it’s best to stay cautious when identity theft is on the line.


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