If there is one great time period for scammers to make an effort to part people from their hard earned money and also their personal information then it is the tax season.
Anyone who is trying to file taxes in the year 2019 will no doubt face some pretty unique challenges.
We have written this guide to help online consumers stay safe when they prepare themselves to file taxes.
We’ll also talk about some more useful things in this regard.
So let’s get started.
Now, there are a couple of reasons why we say that the tax seasons is the best time for all types of scammers to get to work.
One of those reasons is that the tax season put a lot of pressure on people who are trying to file their returns.
And when they are under stress, scammers know that they will make mistakes in the form of dubious decisions.
Then there are other factors at play such as fear and money.
We may also thank phenomenon such as chance occurrences which happen almost every tax season and that is exactly what scammers are looking for.
Here is a list of things that all online consumers should look out for as they get ready to file their full tax returns.
Tax scammers and their storms
If there is one thing all your taxes are about, then it is money.
Money is actually the prime motivator for anyone and everyone to start exploiting people.
And scammers are aware of that.
Every year at the time of the tax season money is just filling up the air above us.
People do not do themselves any favor by worrying too much about how much money they would eventually have to pay.
Then there are those people who salivate thinking about all the ways they could get a good chunk of their money back in the form of tax refunds.
As you can probably see, these are only two types of money-related human emotions.
Scammers want to play on these emotions.
And they do that by sometimes trying to threaten a person with fake audits or offering someone a big payout if the person in question agrees to give up some personal information.
Scammers also have many other advantages when it comes to working during the tax season.
And that is, because tax preparers and the IRS are just two of a quite a few people who, in reality, do require a given person to give them his/her personal information.
Now, we know for sure that if a stranger asked you for your official social security number then you would not hesitate to slap the person with a huge no.
However, if the person simply told you that he or she is working with the IRS and hence needed to confirm a couple of things from the person then we have no doubt that the person would have little to no issues in cooperating.
The person would agree to a lot of things that the IRS person would ask of them because tax issues are serious issues in this country.
That is not just true once in a while but it is true every year.
With that said, it is also true that a lot of events have taken place over the last year or so (and already this year as well) that have managed to add a good amount of fodder for all types of scammers.
What do we mean by that?
What we mean is that the Trump administration decided to put the American public through the longest government shutdown period in the history of the country.
And that has put a lot of financial stress of probably hundreds and thousands of American citizens all over the country.
That has also forced some workers to take out huge loans on bad conditions.
Some have had no choice but to drain their savings accounts.
Others have had to take other less-than-ideal actions in order to make sure that they are able to stay afloat in these difficult times.
And remember what we told you about scammers.
They are always trying to exploit various kinds of major events anywhere in the country that make it to the news.
If you combine the 2018 tax season with the government shutdown then you would not find it hard to see why this time around it is the perfect opportunity for scammers to get off their couches and get to work.
These never-do-wells can come to you in any shape and in any form.
They sometimes pretend that they represent some government agency.
At other times they act as loan collectors.
Generally speaking though, they are ready to become anyone and everyone that they think would get the person’s attention that they are interested in.
Most of the time, these scammers would ask other people for their money.
They also try to extract various pieces of personal information from various people who think they will get some sort of tax rebates or potentially less jail time.
However, once these scammers get a hold of the person’s personal information, they can use that information to activate other kinds of frauds.
The last thing we want you to keep in mind while you are trying to learn how to stay safe from scammers and all other kinds of such people, is that it is true that the country has gone through a tax overhaul which has actually created a ton of uncertainty for millions of tax filers this time around.
The majority of American citizens have no doubt heard about the latest tax overhaul.
What we need them to understand here is that they do not necessarily need to understand each and every facet of the tax system in order to work with it.
But just because you can work with something does not mean that you would not have any confusion about it.
And that is the problem.
The new tax overhaul has managed to create a lot of confusion.
And scammers make use of that confusion in order to take advantage of people.
Fraudsters from all corners of the internet flock to such people and claim that they are working for the IRS.
Not only that they are also able to cite and explain nebulous tax overhaul concepts and reasons why the person they are trying to fraud needs to provide them with some kind of money or his/her personal information.
You do not need us to tell you that issues such as these are further compounded when there is an extended period of a government shutdown.
Not only is it bad for all federal workers but it also places a lot of strain on various organizations and agencies who are constantly trying to struggle against making sense of what is happening around them and what do all the new tax codes really mean.
Chaos is a must. Being Calm is a choice
You need to stay calm amidst all the chaos.
We have already mentioned the fact why we think that the tax season is a chaotic season.
But basically, it brings with it a set of unique factors which work in direct favor of various kinds of scammers.
And the best way for anyone to stay safe on the internet and in real life as well is to always have knowledge from credible sources about what is happening.
That could probably mean that you will have to NOT watch The Simpsons on alternate Saturdays and instead listen to some money channel explaining to you basic concepts about the tax system in the country.
Online consumers need to interrogate all the email messages that they receive in their inbox.
Not only that they also need to avoid performing a click on various links that appear in various messages.
Apart from that, they should also not download any kind of attachments that come with scam email messages.
That holds particularly true for those messages that end up in your inbox unsolicited.
Moreover, you also need to look at a given message rather carefully and spot any kind of spelling mistakes.
Such messages also contain unusual URLs.
So instead of https://www.irs.gov you might see something like http://www.ir-s.ru/taxplayer.
And while you are at it, there is no question that you also need to look out for unusual and weird email addresses.
Never ever make the mistake of handing out your personal information to any entity that you do not fully trust.
Your social security number is very important to you and the IRS.
Some consider it as sacred even.
The same holds true for your Tax ID number along with any kind banking information that you might have.
Of course, if you are confident about where you are and where your information is going (that is, it is going to the correct place) then we do not see a problem in moving forwards and submitting your information.
Users who like to make use of various online tax software applications should make it doubly sure that you are not being redirected to a smartly-disguised phishing site.
So what are these phishing sites?
We want you to think about phishing sites as you would think about phony websites that try to successfully mimic real versions.
Their main aim is to trick the user into giving up all of their personal information.
In order to stay away from all phishing websites, you need to make sure that you are making use of a good antivirus product.
Not only that, you also need to keep an eye on the URL which appears in the URL address bar of your web browser in order to make sure that it is legit.
Also, while you are at it, do not try to start work on your returns or other tax stuff while you are making use of a public Wifi internet connection.
Of course, if you do not have any other alternatives, then you should work while making use that you have signed up with a good VPN service and are actively making use of it.
Since the market is filled with pretender VPN services, sometimes it can become rather difficult to tell which VPN is actually a VPN service and which one is actually going to protect your data and guard your privacy and online anonymity.
And while we would love to recommend a single VPN service provider that is best for online banking and doing taxes on a public WiFi network, the fact is that there is none.
The VPN industry offers a lot of excellent choices for a lot of different users.
Therefore, the best thing is to read about the best that the industry has to offer and then make up your own mind about which is the VPN service that caters to your needs with the most amount of competence.
Click here to read our guide about the best VPN service providers in the world right now for any task and any users.
Coming back to our points about how to keep safe from tax-season scams, you need to remember that it is, most of the times, perfectly acceptable for a given user to go ahead and read stuff straight from the source.
In practical terms, if you receive an email that looks suspicious or a phone calls that sound phony or a person comes to you claiming to be an agent from the government then you need to stop for a bit and look up all the information on the organizations’ official website or get their contact information.
Remember, that scammers do not just come to you as government agents.
Sometimes, they pretend to come from banks.
Other times they fake it by acting as bill collectors.
In any given situation, you need to make sure that you are able to reach out to the organization that you need to reach out to directly.
Now, if the matter is something that is not related to any kind of organization that you have any familiarity with, then know that the collection agency which is contacting you is probably not a collection agency at all.
In such cases, the best course of action is to contact the company or the bank that the agent or the email or the phone call person claims that they work for.
After that, it should not be hard for you to verify if the person contacting you is legit or not.
Finally, you should not have any delusions about the tax system getting simpler any time soon.
We know that there is a ton of hype surrounding taxes and the tax system but things pertaining to governments do not tend to move or change as quickly as the tech startups in Silicon Valley.
The other thing we need to keep in your head is that the IRS or the Internal Revenue Service actually has a vested interest here.
In other words, the service wants taxpayers to fill out their returns correctly and on time.
And hence they provide people with a surprising number of different tools for free in order to help people go through the scariest of tax stuff.
Perhaps what we mean to say here is that if you think you are having an awfully hard time in filing your returns, or understanding things, you do not have to work too hard to file for an official tax extension.
Moreover, if you ever receive any kind of suspicious message from an agent or someone claiming to come from the agency or work for the United States government, you need to report it to the IRS if you are a dutiful citizen of the nation.
You can do that by clicking here.
Our research shows that the agency has a pretty extensive and comprehensive FAQ section on its official website.
There is also detailed IRS contact information in there.
Hence, if you feel that there is something wrong with what you are seeing or reading or even hearing then you need to give the IRS a call.
In the end, you need to keep your calm during all the extreme amount of madness that is created during each tax season.
And we are not going to deny that the stuff one has to work through during the tax season is hard.
After reading this guide we hope that you will have enough wits about you this time around to keep things under control.
Remember, if you are worried about the actual security of your online data then make sure you are making use of a good antivirus software application and a VPN service.
That is especially true for those people who have a tendency to blow things out of proportion or have actually been through a rough period of financial or emotional stress.
We know for a fact that government mandated furlough can be tough.
Just trust your knowledge and try to move slowly with care.
Take all the extra steps that you think you need to take in order to stay safe while you are filing your tax returns this year.