Tax season is stressful for a multitude of reasons. One stress, in particular, might be more dangerous than you might realize. Scammers and hackers take advantage of this busy and stressful time to attempt to steal and take your personal information by posing as IRS or other government employees. One of the biggest things they've been coming after recently? Your social security.
We are under a month now from Tax Day, and I know we are all feeling that reality. We know that this might have been a particularly stressful time of year for you, but you just have to wait it out a little bit longer. Your tax return will be in your bank account before you know it. But as we are speeding towards the official end of 2019's tax season, there might be more than getting your paperwork in on time that you need to be concerned with. Hackers and scammers use this time of the year to prey on thousands of people to steal their personal information and gain access to their social security. I'm sure many of our readers have been experiencing a huge rate of unknown phone calls recently. That's not just because it's election season. Scammers and hackers have become some of the most dangerous and frightening intelligent criminals out there.
Cybercrime that uses emails and phone calls to extract highly personal information has become one of the most expensive crimes in the world. It's costing companies billions of dollars in stolen information and damages. These criminals are becoming smarter and more in tune with how they can disguise themselves to make strangers believe that they are companies, business, and official governing bodies that you can trust. The most disturbing is that they prey on groups of individuals who are most likely to fall for these scams, individuals who rely on their social security to live on. They can, and they do, attack almost anyone they can, but they are starting to focus more and more on groups of individuals who are unaware of this type of crime and who are the most unfamiliar with technology.
One of the largest groups being attacked are the elderly and retired. Scammers go right to the source calling direct personal home or cell phone numbers. These criminals pretend to be IRS, other government, or bank employees and are looking to bait their callers into giving them what they want or backing them into a corner and threatening them until they do. So what do these scams look like? They usually come in the form of a phone call or an email. Usually, it is a pre-recorded message stating that your social security account has been compromised or frozen. They can also threaten that there has been an issue with your taxes and filing them. Which during this time of year, is very believable. They will say that you either have to pay a certain amount of money to unlock or save the account, pay to prevent legal action, or pay to prevent the police from showing up and arresting you.
If a scammer calls you in real-time, they make the same accusations. Sometimes they go as far as giving you a case number and know just enough information about you or the family member they are trying to scam, that their case seems very legitimate. They then might begin asking for very personal information, like the last digits of your social security number or the bank account number you use when filing your taxes. If you put up any kind of fight or question these claims or refuse to answer questions, that's when it could start getting ugly. Threats could be thrown out that legal action will be taken, that the police will show up, or other harm could come to you and your family. That's when the baiting starts to happen. Once they begin to make threats, they will say the only way to protect your social security account or to fix these issues is to pay them in cash, to wire cash to them, pay them in gift cards, digital currency like bitcoin, or other strange ways.
When it comes to emails, the scammers can create emails that look official. They will create logos to place within the email, write a very convincing message that looks very professional, and create an email address that looks legitimate. The message will be very similar to that of the above-mentioned phone calls, and the only way to protect or stop these actions is to pay them in similarly strange ways and provide them with very personal information. If you receive any kind of phone call or email like this, hang up immediately and pay no mind to the email. Know right now, that if the IRS or the Government needed to get in touch with you, this is not how the process would go at ALL. You can now report these phone calls and emails online to the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. The administration is cracking down on these kinds of daily attacks, and are working hard to eliminate this threat.
All of that being said, know that your social security number cannot be suspended, revoked, blocked, or frozen. Personal information should, and would be, in front of or available to an actual government official if they needed it. They don't need it from you. If the social security offices do call or email you, you have the option of withholding answering anything until you physically call the office back and make sure that it is the social security office that you're dealing with and that there is a real issue. Call them at 800-772-1213 and go from there. Please make note that phone numbers can be spoofed to look as convincing as possible, so don't fall for any phone number. No actual government employee would ever ask you to wire money, send or pay in cash, or to buy them a gift card as a form of payment EVER. If you are ever threatened with arrest or legal action, this is not the government you are talking to, this is a scammer.
These phone calls and emails can be very scary and very convincing. Because these criminals are getting smarter by the day, they know exactly how to get just enough information and say all the right things to scare whoever they're talking to. If it does happen that you do become victim to a situation like this, do not be embarrassed and try to handle it yourself. Report it right away. Visit the website for the Office of the Inspector General (below), the IRS website, or your local police. Your local police will be able to direct you to the proper authorities to deal with these situations. Also, help your loved ones in these situations. Tell them about the possibilities of getting these types of calls and attacks. Prepare them for the situation, and walk them through how to handle it best. Keep them aware of these kinds of situations. Keep communication open about this situation, and keep your loved ones safe.
Tax season is already a stressful time. Add on some very convincing criminals, and some real damage could be done. Stay alert, stay aware, and protect yourself. We have included the website to report any phone calls or emails at the bottom of this blog. You can help stop these criminals and keep yourself safe. While tax season is coming to an end, remember that we are your premier service in Goose Creek to help you prepare and get through every tax season. You don't have anything to fear this season if you work with us. You're going to be in good hands.
Report any kind of abuse or potential scam to this website IMMEDIATELY!
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