How to Spot Scams That Mimic the IRS or Charities

Fraud is a year-round activity, but the tax season increases the number of schemes designed to steal money and personal information through fake messages and other means. Cyber ​​security firms have also reported an increase in fraudulent attempts to exploit the conflict in Ukraine – a situation that has raised fears of potential cyber attacks on American companies by ransomware and other malicious software. You can better protect yourself if you know what is out there. Here is a guide.

The Internal Revenue Service does not first contact taxpayers via email, text messages or social media channels to request personal and financial information – including bank-account or credit-card numbers, passwords or zip codes. The messages asking for that information are misleading “phishing” attempts to steal money and identity.

If the IRS needs your attention, in most cases it starts with a notice by regular mail from the United States Postal Service.

The IRS will not send unexpected messages about auditing returns, sending stimulus payments, collecting your taxes or “canceling your social security number.” An IRS representative may call or visit when a taxpayer has an overdue bill or other tax issues. Nevertheless, according to the agency, written notice is usually sent first.

Scam telephone calls and voice messages using fake agency numbers and fake IRS agent identification are common. Again, the agency usually sends the notice by first mail. It does not make unexpected calls to discuss tax refunds, to threaten arrest by local law enforcement, or to demand immediate payment in certain forms. Tax bills are paid to the US Treasury and not directly to “agents” who need funds in iTunes or Amazon gift cards, prepaid debit cards, electronic cash or wire transfers.

The official site has a long list of current and excellent scams on the Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts page. And the site has guidelines for verifying real IRS agents and identifying legitimate debt collectors.

Opportunistic scammers are quick to take advantage of natural disasters and humanitarian crises, including the Covid-19 epidemic and the war in Ukraine. Be aware of messages from unknown organizations requesting donations via credit card or cryptocurrency – or claim to be refugees or members of the military. Crowdfunding campaigns should be avoided or heavily investigated unless you know the organizer.

Most fraudulent attempts are easy to detect. Typical messages, personal “official correspondence” from Gmail and Yahoo accounts, and voicemail messages remaining in a robotic computer speech are immediately red flags. Fake invoices and fake PayPal notices are a popular phishing scam.

You can avoid many phishing temptations by fine-tuning your mail program’s junk filters and blocking unwanted calls and text senders. Let an unknown caller go to voicemail. The Times-owned site Virector has a guide to fighting spam calls.

Make sure your browser is set up to block pop-up messages and warn of malicious sites. Do not install apps from unknown developers and keep antivirus software enabled on your computer. If spam occurs, do not call the number and do not open the connection – it is likely to be malware. If you’re worried about an account, open your browser and go to the company’s website, avoiding the links in the message.

Deposit …Apple

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s site has a detailed page on ongoing fraud and scams. And if You did After years of practicing secure computing, you probably have a friend or relative who is not tech-savvy – and can use your help.

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