The recent news of a hack at the IRS sent shivers down taxpayers’ spines for good reason. While the first risk was tax return-based identity theft, there are other hazards on the way including phishing attacks and other scams.
The breach hit the IRS Get Transcript service. Hackers attempted to open an estimated 200,000 taxpayer files and roughly 104,000 files were actually accessed according to the agency. The IRS has indicated it will notify impacted taxpayers by mail but a wave of spam is also likely to be headed your way.
FAKE IRS OFFICIALS
Phishing emails – those communications in your inbox that sound vaguely familiar or could even be from the compromised computer of someone you know – and the IRS go hand in hand. Recently the IRS estimated that one phone scam believed to originate overseas scammed $15 million from US taxpayers.
Each year, numerous phishing attempts warn of harsh IRS actions unless you click a link or open an attachment.
Fear combined with urgent language about police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other consequences often will trigger a mistake that compromises your own computer.
The practice is so prevalent that the IRS has a special email address to report it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t reply, don’t open, don’t click is their advice. Once you forward any suspicious email to the government, delete it.
It’s still too premature to predict how many phishing scams or phone scams will be launched after May’s IRS hack but here’s the bottom line straight off the agency’s website: “The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.”
The only way the IRS plans to contact consumers whose transcripts were accessed is via US Mail. However, even letters and faxes claiming to be from the IRS can be bogus. The tax collection agency has more advice on how to proceed1 if you receive letters, phone calls and even texts claiming to be from the IRS.
There’s one final message from this particular data breach and it’s another chiller.
“It’s possible that some of these transcript accesses were made with an eye toward using them for identity theft for next year’s tax season,” the IRS statement form added.
Taxpayer beware! File as early in the season as you can. If your transcript was stolen, take advantage of the IRS offer for a special PIN for next year’s filing. It could thwart any hackers trying to piggyback on your tax refund.
Officials fear that the latest IRS hack of its transcript service could lead to more tax refund fraud in early 2016.