Tax time frauds can harm small businesses

Tax filing due date for individuals is April 18th this year, which is soon approaching. The IRS recently alerted taxpayers to be watchful for last-minute phishing email scams. Cybercriminals continue to send phishing emails requesting employee W2 information. They are also sending scam emails to tax preparers asking for a change of disbursement of refunds to a prepaid debit card or to a different bank account.

Scam tax fraud is a huge business. The IRS said tax fraud due to scammers was $1.2 billion for January-September, 2016. Security experts say that over 125 organizations reported being impacted by business email compromise (BEC) scams in the first quarter of 2017, when cybercriminals obtained W2 information.

The IRS encourages tax preparers to verbally confirm with their client on any requested change of address for a refund or a change to direct deposit information. They also suggest that tax preparers change and strength their email passwords to reduce risk of hacker intrusions. Confidential data sent via email should be either encrypted or require a unique password by the client to open the tax file.

Businesses as well individuals should be on the lookout for potential phishing emails from criminals that are fraudulently claiming to be from a financial institution, a tax preparer or the IRS. If there is a link included in the email, it should not be clicked unless the email is verified to be from a legitimate sender. Staff should also be on the alert to not provide any confidential information such as social security numbers or bank account details to requests purported from management, unless it has been verified as a true request.

If you receive a suspicious email purporting to be from a tax software provider or from the IRS, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request sensitive data via email. If you get a call from someone saying they are an IRS agent, ask him/her for a call back number to verify it is a legitimate call.

Carolyn Schrader is a seasoned cybersecurity professional and founder of the Cyber Security Group Inc., providing corporate cybersecurity services to high profile clients.

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