Criminals are taking advantage of people in the US who are still filing their taxes during the official extension period granted by the IRS, which ends on May 17.
According to new data compiled by Check Point Research, tax scams using the subject line ‘IRS Documentation Policies Changes’ are being sent to individuals in a new tax theft wave.
Posing as a legitimate communication from the IRS, the scammers are enticing tax filers to inadvertently download malware that can lead to them stealing financial details, account credentials and other personally identifiable information.
CPR’s findings indicate that there has been an 18% increase in the average weekly amount of tax-related cyber attacks so far this year, compared to the last three months of 2020.
The company revealed two examples of the tactics being used by the cybercriminals, who subsequently try to infect tax filers computers with malware called Trickbot. This is a banking Trojan that can capture financial details, crucial account information and other personal data, as well as spread it farther afield within a network. The move can also lead to additional ransomware attacks.
Individuals using the extended deadline for filing their taxes should remain vigilant and CPR has issued its own common sense guidance for anyone who might think they’ve become a target for the scammers. Consumers should keep an eye out for any tell-tale misspellings; always a sure sign of a rogue email. Similarly, never click on attachments included in an email unless it’s from a bona fide, trusted source.
Be sure to check the email signature too for any irregularities. People should also beware of urgent or threatening language used in any communication and ignore claims that their ‘account has been suspended’, as well as giving short thrift to an ‘urgent payment request’.
“We’ve been studying tax scams for the past six months or so,” commented Ekram Ahmed, from Check Point. “The numbers of tax-related scams have increased significantly, week after week. People who are filing in the days during this extended period should know that scammers are only doubling-down.”
“Lately, IRS impersonations are a go-to strategy for scammers. Think twice before opening up any attachments that are allegedly from the ‘IRS’. Watch for misspellings, beware of urgent or threatening emails, and constantly have your guard up in the days leading up to May 17 and after.”