Tax season is hacker season. As taxpayers nationwide file their 2018 returns, they should prepare to do battle with the hackers and fraudsters now coming out of hibernation to confiscate your money. Their most dangerous threat this year is the Emotet trojan. If accidentally downloaded, this malware virus hunkers down hidden inside your computer, allowing the hacker to spy on and redirect your data. Emotet already lurks amid the computer software of many banks and financial institutions and tries to trick people into downloading infected documents. Most businesses are now aware of it and have purged it.
But here’s the new wrinkle, “We’ve noticed this scam also masquerading as the IRS, “said agency spokesperson Richard Sanford. The scam email comes with an attachment labeled Tax Account Transcripts-or something similar-and the subject line contains a variation on the phrase “Tax transcript”. It appears to be a summary of your tax return, so it’s tempting to open it. But “don’t do it”, urged Sanford. “We do not send unsolicited emails to the public nor would we email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript.”
A major fraud was uncovered during last tax season in tax preparer’s offices in which “infected computers provided access to the complete return data of thousands of consumers.” The hackers invaded five to seven firms a week, infecting everything from routers to cell phones, and then filled refund claims for these unwitting taxpayers. When the IRS caught onto this scheme, it issued a release that warned tax preparers about the “high risk”. But the agency places primary responsibility on the tax professional. Although the IRS offers support, it nonetheless warns that the law requires tax preparers to protect themselves with a robust security plan. Then agency even suggests hiring “white hat” hackers to show the accountants their vulnerabilities.
Hackers can also morph into phone spoofers, either when they’re after your legitimate tax return or to get the illegitimate tax refund from the return they’ve created. Tax season is hacker season.