This is an article I wrote which appeared in the 

February 2017 edition of The St. Augustine Beaches News Journal.

The IRS has a webpage that lists scams which are costing US Taxpayers millions of dollars.

Here is the page:   https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts  They list many phone & email scams which have begun to grow in frequency this tax season.

One deeply disturbing “2 Stage” scam targets Tax Professionals, and then uses information stolen to scam the individuals that have used the Tax Pro.

The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. 

Clearly, the IRS does not take payment in the form of gift cards from iTunes. However, many taxpayers are being scammed using this technique.

The bad guys are counting on the “fear-factor” of dealing with the IRS. Many citizens get a chill at the thought of being at odds with the IRS. This is exactly what the bad guys are counting on. They hope that rather than checking and double checking the authenticity of the request, folks will just pay up.

They also cite an email phishing scam that demands that you “Update your IRS e-file”. The email has a link to a webpage that looks just like an IRS webpage and is used to steal information entered. The web address is IRSgov (note the missing dot between “IRS” and “gov”) not the official website IRS.gov.  If one is not paying very close attention, the missing dot can lead to being scammed.

This is one way that scammers catch many folks. They create links in email and webpages that “look” correct, but are not. Recently we have seen the use of an old scam where an email includes a link which is pre-pended with   “data:text/html,”  and after that you’ll see what looks like the official link address and a long string of text.

All official government websites are encrypted, and use “https:” at the very beginning of the web address. In your web browser, you will see a lock icon indicating that the communication is secured. If you click a link in an email or on a website and do not see that it is secure, GET OUT.

Phone scams are on the rise which claim to be from Microsoft, Apple, and Google. These companies WILL NEVER call you out of the blue. As a matter of fact, it is nearly impossible to find any way to get them to call you, even if you “need” them to call.

NEVER accept calls which you did not request. These companies do not call to tell you that there is an issue with your computer or account. Never, under any circumstances, trust someone solely because they say they are with a well-known company or government entity.

A healthy skepticism is called for when the phone rings, or an email arrives which are not as a direct result of you requesting them. And even then, double checking authenticity is recommended.

Steven Aldrich is a technology advisor with decades of experience as an IT Director and is the managing partner at First Coast Business Consultants, LLC. Contact Steven if you need a patient, polite, trusted advisor to come to your business or home and help with your computer security.

Steve@fcbcllc.com or (904) 479-5661

 

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