The key to stopping scammers is staying one step ahead of the bad guys. That’s why the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), together with state tax agencies and tax industry partners, are warning tax professionals about a new scam this tax season. As part of the scam, cybercriminals are posing as clients soliciting services from tax professionals.
If that sounds tricky, it is. Here’s how the scheme works. First, the tax professional receives what looks like a real solicitation from a potential client. The scammer typically starts out with something innocuous like “I need a preparer to file my taxes.” If the tax professional responds to the email, the scammer follows up with a second email. That email typically has either an embedded web address or contains an attachment which the scammers allege contains the potential client’s tax information. When the tax professional clicks on the link or downloads the attachment, the scammers then collect the tax professional’s email address, password, and other private information.
Sometimes, the tax professional is tricked into responding because the emails appear to come from a legitimate source, including a friend or colleague. That’s because, the IRS warns, the friend or colleague has already become a victim. The scammers are accessing that friend or colleague’s account in order to send phishing emails.
Phishing is an attempt to get you to disclose your personal or financial information. Scammers pose as legitimate sources – as here – and try to get you to turn over information or, in some cases, install malware so that the scammers can steal your information directly from your computer.
So what’s the end game? The more data that scammers can collect about taxpayers, the more likely it is that they will be successful in trying to sign into to financial accounts or creating fake tax returns in an effort to steal money. That’s why you should never respond to scammers – even if you just want to teach them a lesson.
The IRS urges all taxpayers, including tax professionals, to be smart this tax season. Don’t respond to or click on a link in an email or attachment from a sender that you don’t recognize. For more tips on protecting yourself from identity theft, click here.
You should also be aware that scammers are constantly dreaming up new ways to steal identities and assets. You can see the list of scams topping the Better Business Bureau’s complaint list for 2016 here.