With the holiday shopping and tax seasons approaching, it is the ideal time of year for scammers to attempt to steal your identity, personal information and money. As a result, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Security Summit group issued a warning to taxpayers to beware of potential scams in the coming months. Coincidentally, Cyber Monday, the start of online shopping for the holidays, kicked off the 5th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week, a time where the IRS encourages businesses and tax professionals to increase their online security as scammers prepare for tax season.

During this “perfect storm” for scammers, there are a few simple steps taxpayers should take to protect their identities as well as their wallets, including:

  • Ensuring security software for computers and mobile devices are up to date
  • Double checking that anti-virus software has both a firewall and a feature to stop malware
  • Not opening strange links or suspicious emails with attachments
  • Protecting your devices and online accounts with strong passwords
  • Leveraging multi-factor authentication to stop hackers in their tracks
  • Checking the websites you are shopping at have “https” at the beginning of their URL as well as a lock icon in the browser bar
  • Never shopping using unsecured public Wi-Fi (including an airport, the mall, a coffee shop, etc.)
  • Safeguarding your home Wi-Fi with a strong, unique password
  • Regularly backing up your files for both your computer and mobile phone
  • If possible, connecting to your workplace from home via a secured virtual private network (VPN)
  • Evaluating specific security recommendations for your mobile devices via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Smartphone Security Checker

COVID-19 Scams Continue

On top of the holiday and tax season scams, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently warned about ongoing potential fraud schemes pertaining to COVID-19, including those involving antibody testing, Economic Impact Payments, healthcare and more. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it discovered fraudulent emails impersonating health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

Taxpayers should air on the side of caution when using technology during the next few months, as scammers will prey on holiday shoppers, those preparing for tax season and the vulnerability of Americans pertaining to the pandemic. Information to report COVID-19-related scams can be found here and the latest scam information can be seen here. Doeren Mayhew’s tax advisors are here to help safeguard you from becoming a victim of fraud – contact us today for more information.