PHISHING SCAMS DURING TAX SEASON

PHISHING SCAMS DURING TAX SEASON

Devon Kroop 3/28/2016

  • Phishers successfully target businesses’ W-2 information
  • The ever-transforming ransomware threat
  • Savvy Cybersecurity quick links
  • Update: FBI vs. Apple
  • Emerging issues: File-less malware, Mac ransomware attacks, FedEx phishing emails, and more
  • Cybersecurity shorts: IRS breach affects even more people, a hack at the Bangladesh Central Bank, .gov links targeted, and much more!
  • Software updates

This new season brings warmer weather, outdoor activities, flowers—and tax identity theft. Unfortunately, this tax season has been plagued by fraud and scams again.

Since February, we’ve seen an influx in tax phishing schemes that you must warn your clients about. You can read more about that later in the newsletter.

In March, the IRS also announced that their 2015 breach affected more people than originally reported. The number of affected taxpayers is now over 330,000. But March wasn’t all about taxes. Read on to learn more about:

  • The bizarre case of the Bangladesh Central Bank hack
  • New trends in ransomware
  • Home Depot’s multi-million-dollar settlement
  • Phishers successfully target businesses’ W-2 information
  • Tax season may almost be over, but phishers are still going strong. In a twist on their old tax identity theft scheme, scammers are now tricking companies into handing over.
  • Phishers successfully target businesses’ W-2 information
  • Tax season may almost be over, but phishers are still going strong. In a twist on their old tax identity theft scheme, scammers are now tricking companies into handing over employee W-2 information.

 

The scam has successfully stolen data from big names like Snapchat, MoneyTree, Seagate, Care.com, GCI, and Environment Resource Management. Phishers have also stolen W-2 information from smaller companies including LAZ Parking, Magnolia Health Corp., Polycom, BrightView, Central Concrete Supply Co., and others.

All companies are at risk.

How it occurs

The scam begins when an employee receives an email from his CEO or management asking for copies of W-2 forms or W-2 information. The employee responds with the information. The email, however, is not from his CEO, but was sent by a phisher spoofing the CEO’s email address.

With that information, the scammers can file fraudulent tax returns and request a large tax refund. They can also use the information—including name, Social Security number, address, salary information, and more—to commit further fraud and identity theft.

Security writer Brian Krebs first reported on the scheme in February. Since, he has been contacted by many readers whose companies were also affected by this scam. He estimates that employees at hundreds of companies have exposed their data when tricked by this scheme.

Most affected companies have offered their employees the usual credit monitoring and insurance. MoneyTree gave employees $50 to freeze their credit files. Phishers haven’t given up on individual targets either. The Internal Revenue Service reports a 400 percent surge in phishing emails this year

What you can do

To protect yourself, be on the lookout for phishing emails. Remember, the IRS will not send you an email about your personal tax information. If you do receive an email like this, delete it and contact the IRS directly.

Employers must talk to their employees about this scam. Teach them the warning signs of a phishing email and make sure they know the acronym, EMAIL. It stands for Examine Messages and Inspect Links. Companies should also have a verification process in place for personal information requests. For example, if employees receive an email from the CEO asking for W-2s, they should confirm over the phone or in person.

All individuals, whether affected or not, must take precautions against the growing tax fraud threat. File your taxes early to reduce the chances of someone else filing in your name first. The IRS also offers a special PIN to certain state residents and identity theft victims. If you qualify, apply.

Lastly, sign up for a Security Freeze at the three credit bureaus. While this won’t necessarily stop a fraudulent tax refund, it will stop scammers from opening new accounts in your name.

Posted in Business Development, Client Services, Taxes, Technology Tagged with:

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