June 14, 2019, 10:22 AM
We secure our valuables – our wallets, keys, and homes. We know that, if left unsecured, they can easily be a target for criminals. So it makes sense to think the same way about the information stored on all our devices.
Computers, tablets, phones and other personal devices hold your emails and your financial and tax documents (with your Social Security numbers). Criminals who get access to this valuable information can commit identity theft, put harmful software on your devices, or both.
What’s one easy way to help protect all of this sensitive information? Update your software regularly, and as soon as possible when a newer version comes out. What’s an even easier way? Set the updates to happen automatically. Don’t ignore reminders to update. Criminals look to exploit vulnerabilities before the software companies can fix it. Delaying gives hackers time to access your information – even when a patch is out there to lock them out.
So what software should you be updating?
Source: Federal Trade Commission
- Security software. Whether you use antivirus or firewall programs that were pre-installed on your device or that you bought on your own, make sure they’re up to date.
- Operating system software. Your operating system could be Windows, Apple OS, etc. If you’re not sure how to update your operating system, go to the website of your device manufacturer for help.
- Internet browsers and apps. Both are access points for criminals to enter your devices, so it’s important to keep them secure.
June 10, 2019, 2:25 PM
Although the April filing deadline has passed, scam artists remain hard at work, and the IRS today urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a spring surge of evolving phishing emails and telephone scams.
The IRS is seeing signs of two new variations of tax-related scams. One involves Social Security numbers related to tax issues and another threatens people with a tax bill from a fictional government agency. Here are some details:
- The SSN hustle. The latest twist includes scammers claiming to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s Social Security number. In this variation, the Social Security cancellation threat scam is similar to and often associated with the IRS impersonation scam. It is yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN.
- Fake tax agency. This scheme involves the mailing of a letter threatening an IRS lien or levy. The lien or levy is based on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency, “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” There is no such agency. The lien notification scam also likely references the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a legitimate organization.
Both display classic signs of being scams. The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – remind everyone to stay alert to scams that use the IRS or reference taxes, especially in late spring and early summer as tax bills and refunds arrive.
The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many variations of the phone scam, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other verbal threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.
Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.
Email phishing scams
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances when the IRS will call or come to a home or business. These visits include times when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or the IRS needs to tour a business as part of a civil investigation (such as an audit or collection case) or during criminal investigation.
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS that is fraudulent, report it by sending it to email@example.com. The Report Phishing and Online Scams page provides complete details.
Telltale signs of a scam
The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
- Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
- Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page.
- Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:
The IRS does not use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is also available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.