The deadline to file your federal income taxes with the IRS is almost here. Unfortunately, once again tax season is also phishing season here in Southern California.
As you probably know, “phishing” is an online form of fraud in which the scammer poses as a trusted business, acquaintance or government entity to try to convince you to give them your personal data. They reach out to their victims via email, which often look convincing at first glance.
Scammers pretending to be the IRS have been around for years. Here is a new grift you may not have heard of: posing as an online tax preparation company.
Phishing for your tax info
Wired reports that a cybersecurity company has found more than 100 websites designed to fool people into thinking they are visiting an internet tax prep firm like TurboTax or accounting assistance company like QuickBooks. These fake sites came online late in 2018, the when many people start getting their W-2s. The cybersecurity experts suspect that scammers are luring people to these sites to steal their login names and passwords to the legit sites.
Another variation of the scheme is to pose as tech support for tax software. Using domain names similar but not the same as legitimate tax software sites like “quickebooksupport.com,” scammers wait for desperate users to accidently click on them in Google or Bing search results. The fake sites post a toll-free “tech support” number, where operators steal victims’ personal data or sell them worthless software.
Worried you might be vulnerable to internet con artists? Remember, tech support for tax prep sites don’t need you to give them your login information. And the IRS always initiates contact with taxpayers by mail first. If you get an email that is supposedly from the IRS without getting a letter first, the email is almost certainly a phony.
Meanwhile, if you have been contacted by the IRS for real about allegedly unpaid taxes, consult with an experienced Orange County tax attorney about your next move.