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Protect yourself from phishing scams during tax season

by Jan. 31, 2018, 8:02 AM

In recent years cybercriminals have used stolen Social Security numbers to file tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds. Phishers obtain SSNs through a corporate or government breach or by sending emails to lure unsuspecting users into providing sensitive personal information.

This year the Internal Revenue Service has reported an increase in scams through phishing emails and fake phone calls. The IRS will never contact you via phone or email without first mailing a written notice. For more tax tips, visit the IRS’ webpage.

As a reminder, if you receive a suspicious email or phone call, please send it as an attachment to phishing@vanderbilt.edu, or call the Tech Hub at (615) 343-9999.

There are measures you, your spouse and/or any dependents can take to reduce the risk and enable early detection of tax fraud. VUIT strongly recommends completing the following:

  • Set up an SSA.gov account (My Social Security) before a scam artist sets one up as you, your spouse or your dependents.
  • Consider signing up for Opt-Out to reduce unsolicited credit card requests by calling (888) 5OPT-OUT or registering online at optoutprescreen.com.
  • Order your free credit report yearly and review it by visiting annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228.
  • Set up a separate email address to be used exclusively for your financial and tax information. Consider using multifactor authentication on this email account.
  • Consider reviewing your digital footprint (all of your email addresses, logins to shopping sites, social media sites, etc.), and take steps to reduce your footprint by closing unused accounts whenever possible.
  • Consider the use of a professional service, or check with your insurance carrier to learn about any services they offer.

If you think you may be the victim of identity theft or tax fraud, here is some helpful information:

  • Report it to your local law enforcement, and create an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. For additional guidance, visit consumer.ftc.gov.
  • Report it to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service identity theft hotline by calling (800) 908-4490 (expect long hold times).
  • Consider a credit freeze and alert by calling (877) 322-8228 or by visiting the FTC’s Credit Freeze FAQs.
  • If you are a TurboTax user, call (800) 944-8596 (expect long hold times).

Below are two examples of typical IRS phishing emails. Click on the images to enlarge them.

 

 

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