As the deadline for filing taxes draws closer, many consumers are using online software programs to complete their returns. It’s convenient and often more accurate than doing it manually, but Better Business Bureau advises consumers to be aware of fake emails sent by scammers, not the tax software vendors.
The IRS lists these phishing emails among its “dirty dozen” list of tax scams in the 2016 filing season. Criminals pose as a person or organization you recognize and trust. They create websites that look legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. They hope victims will take the bait and leave sensitive information, such as passwords, Social Security numbers or other identifiers. Consumers can report these to the IRS at email@example.com.
“Tax software phishing is just one of the tax scams that have plagued consumers for years,” said Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO. “With the IRS deadline coming up on April 18 this year, consumers need to be vigilant. Filing returns online is generally very secure, but you need to be careful with unsolicited emails about your return.”
Intuit, maker of the popular TurboTax software, has an entire page on its website listing scam emails that consumers have received. They use subject lines such as “Update Your TurboTax Account,” “Thank You For Choosing TurboTax” or may claim to show that your return was accepted by federal or state tax authorities.
Some emails use copies of the TurboTax logo and may come from email addresses that appear to come from the software vendor. Scammers are good at making them look legitimate, but the company advises consumers to log in to their accounts only on the official TurboTax website.
Intuit advises consumers who receive phishing emails to take four steps:
- Don’t open the attachment or click on a link in the email.
- Send a copy of the email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do not forward the email to anyone else.
- Delete the email.
BBB tips for avoiding phishing scams include:
- Scrutinize unsolicited emails carefully, looking at the email address, spelling and other signs that the email may not come from the software vendor. Be aware that scammers are skilled at faking email addresses. Don’t click on attachments or links.
- Don’t respond to emails asking for banking or credit card account numbers or passwords. Your bank or credit card issuer will never ask you for that information.
- If you have a relationship with a business, such as a tax software vendor, log in through its official site to determine whether there is a problem with your account. You also can call the vendor’s customer service number listed on its website.
- Make sure you have anti-virus software on your computer, and keep it up to date.
- Don’t respond to text messages or voicemails that ask you to call a number or click a link and then enter your account number and pin or password. Scammers often develop fake sites to collect your sensitive information.
- Make sure you have strong passwords on your computer and all financial accounts, and change them if you believe your account has been accessed by an unauthorized person. Strong passwords include a combination of letters and numbers and, in some cases, symbols. Avoid using a birthdate or other obvious number in your password or pin.
- Use an IRS-issued PIN number when you file your taxes. Click on https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Electronic-Filing-PIN-Request and enter the information requested by the IRS to obtain your PIN.
For more information on protecting your identity or to check out a BBB Business Review or charity report, contact BBB at www.bbb.org or (314) 645-3300.