If You're Filing Your Taxes Last Minute, Watch Out for This, Experts Warn
You're at higher risk if you've been waiting until the tax deadline to submit your return.
The deadline to file your tax return is fast approaching. For 2022, you have until April 18 to submit and pay your taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but if you've been putting it off, you're hardly alone. The IRS said it expects to receive more than 160 million returns this year and as of April 1, it had only gotten 91 million. If you're among the nearly 70 million taxpayers expected to get your taxes done in the next week, you need to be on high alert. Read on to find out what experts are warning last-minute filers to watch out for right now.
If you're filing your taxes last minute, watch out for scams.
Scammers are looking to capitalize on taxpayers who are rushing and panicking to get their taxes done before the April 18 deadline, according to CNET. Researchers from Cofense, an email security company, told the news outlet that there has been a recent surge in tax-related scam emails. The spike is aided by a resurgence in the use of a computer malware program called Emotet, the researchers said.
"Cybercriminals count on people being busy, stressed or anxious during tax season so they can exploit their trust and lack of knowledge," Paige Hanson, chief of cyber safety education for NortonLifeLock, said in a March 31 press release. "Many people do not realize they are a victim of tax-related identity fraud until it is too late. A key way to protect yourself is to understand how the IRS works and to be aware of the different tax scams in use by cybercriminals."
Tax-related scams usually start with fake emails.
According to Cofense, the Emotet software can send hundreds of thousands of phishing emails out to recipients. Joseph Gallop, a cyber threat intelligence manager for Cofense, told CNET that many tax-related scams begin with emails that look like they are from the IRS or an IRS agent, but are actually from a malware program like Emotet. While you might think you're too savvy to be tricked by a fake email, Gallop said these scammers include IRS logos and letterheads that make the message look official.
Keeping in mind how the tax agency is expected to contact you will help you avoid getting taken in by fake correspondence. "The IRS reminds people over and over again that they never reach out through unsolicited calls or emails," Gallop explained to the news outlet.
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Scammers can upload viruses onto your computer and steal your information with these emails.
The IRS reported in 2017 that tax-related scams are typically at their peak as the filing season winds down. According to the tax agency, this is the time of year when you are more likely to get hit with scam emails attempting to pass as a message from the IRS or your tax software provider. "These ruses generally urge taxpayers to give up sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers, and bank account or credit card numbers," the tax agency warned.
In the most recent spike of last-minute filing scams, Cofense said it came across a number of emails that included fake tax forms loaded with malware meant to infect an unsuspecting taxpayer's computer. These viruses allow scammers to access your personal information or upload other viruses, like ransomware, onto your computer later on.
"Remember: never open an attachment or link from an unknown or suspicious source. It may infect your computer with malware or steal information," the IRS advised. "Also, the IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request sensitive data via email."
You should avoid waiting until the deadline to file your taxes in the future.
The IRS advises taxpayers to file their returns early on in the season in order to receive their refunds sooner and to mitigate any potential problems that arise. But this can also help protect you from scammers. Eva Velasquez, the president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told CNET that people often find out that they've become a victim of identity theft during tax time.
In these cases, taxpayers try to file their taxes only to find out that someone else has already fraudulently submitted a return on their behalf to steal any refund they were going to receive from the IRS. According to Velsasquez, the best way to protect yourself from tax-related fraud is to file your taxes early—although it's too late to implement this guidance this year. "The longer you wait to file, the longer you're leaving the window open for someone else to do it," she told CNET. "This is a crime of opportunity."