Criminals pay attention to time, especially at tax time. When the tax season first begins, as I've warned, many identity thieves try to file before you do using your Social Security number. At the end of the season, last minute scammers try to take advantage of already frazzled filers who are just trying to beat the tax clock.
Cybercriminals are always evolving in an effort to trick you into divulging personal financial information. That's why you have to be smarter than they are. Keep one thing in mind: If it sounds suspicious, it probably is.
Here are 2 new scams to watch for now.
1. Last minute email fraud. As this tax season winds down to the April 18th deadline, true- to-form scammers are at it again with a last-minute phishing email scam.
According to the IRS, in one new scam fraudsters posing as customers ask tax preparers to make a last-minute change to their refund destination, often to a prepaid debit card-- theirs, not yours. Our staff is aware of this scam, but don't assume everyone in the tax industry knows about it. Make sure you clearly communicate with your preparer how and where you want to receive your refund. If the preparer gets a last-minute email request to change the address or direct deposit account for refunds, he should confirm with you first.
Keep an eye out for any last minute phishing emails, calls or texts that pose as familiar organizations such as banks, credit card companies, tax software providers or even the IRS. These are scams trying to get you to disclose sensitive information such as passwords, Social Security numbers, and bank account or credit card numbers.
Remember, never open an attachment or link from an unknown source because it can infect your computer with malware or steal information. Also, know that the IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request sensitive data via email.
If you receive any of these suspicious emails, forward them to email@example.com.
2. Scammers are not your "friends." Another current scam may be targeting your business. According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers are stepping up efforts to swindle small businesses through Facebook messages.
The FTC is getting reports from business owners who are receiving messages on Facebook telling them that they're eligible for (or have won) a business grant. Don't believe it. The government will never contact you on social media to offer you money.
Apparently, some owners have responded to the messages because they appeared to be from a "friend," or someone they've done business with. According to the FTC, some fake messages directed people to send a text to "confirm" their "business grant." Don't do it. The scammer is only trying to get your cell phone number. If that happen, you can count on hearing from them ad nauseum.
Before you respond to a message on social media about a small business grant, remember these 3 things, courtesy the FTC:
- Real government grants don't require that you pay first. Stay away from any deal that makes you pay to get your "business grant."
- If someone tells you they need your passwords to give you a "business grant," they're just trying to hack into your accounts to steal your money or impersonate you so they can scam others.
- If the only way to communicate with the person offering you a "business grant" is through social media or text, that's a red flag.
A good general rule for these and any other scams that will pop up in the future is to not give out any personal or financial information on the phone, via email, on social media or any other way.
If something feels wrong to you, it probably is and if you see something suspicious, report it to the Federal Trade Commission using the "FTC Complaint Assistant" on FTC.gov.
The best protector of your business and your own financial information is YOU.