Avoid the scam

Your emails keep coming in and I promise I’m doing my best to get them all answered. If you’re still waiting for a response, then please accept my apology. You will definitely hear from me though! I have been getting quite a few people asking about the latest cyber-related scams out there, so this month let’s focus on some of the newest things going on.

Probably one of the most common scams right now is the tax return scam. Someone recently joked with me saying, “I could never be a victim of that kind of scam. I don’t ever get money back anyway!”

Not so fast.

In fact, the crooks working this scam don’t necessarily care what your actual W-2 reflects about the past year’s salary and withholdings. They just want to know your personal information so they can file a tax return on your behalf with fake information.

See, it’s not your identity they’re changing. That’s key to being successful. You must be eligible for filing a tax return. Then they can use false information to try to trick the IRS into sending a refund based upon a forged W-2.

Of course, there are other tax-related cybercrimes going on as well. In fact, several of them even merge together to get to the one listed above.

For instance, you may receive a threatening telephone call from “the IRS” saying you have been selected for an audit and they have determined you filed fraudulent past claims. In order to get past suspicion, the caller may not even ask you for credit card info. He simply wants you to verify your identity by giving personal information like your social security number, driver’s license number, etc. Once he has the appropriate information, he then will use it to file a fraudulent return.

Other scammers may call you threatening an audit and/or lawsuit if you don’t immediately pay up. They offer a “settlement” amount in order to make the matter go away. Unfortunately, once you give your credit card information, you are now at their mercy. As long as that card is active, they will continue to charge fees to it.

The telephone is not the only way in which these scammers try to contact you, either. Believe it or not, phishing emails are still an effective method for scamming you out of your identity, and therefore, your money.

For those who don’t know, phishing is a term used to describe the process employed by scammers to garner your information. Often, it involves legitimate looking emails directing you to a very legitimate site. In fact, thieves may even have completely replicated the site you are visiting in order to lull you with a false sense of security.

The trouble is, they’re getting better at it.

Until recently, it was very easy to spot most phishing emails. The email would be rife with broken English, and grandiose claims. The links would be obviously wrong. Unfortunately, those things no longer hold true. Now, the emails have near-perfect English, and the links contained within actually look legitimate until you roll over them prior to clicking.

Here’s my best advice for combating these emails:

Don’t click links emailed to you!

Instead, open up your web browser and type in the URL you want to visit. Then, you can be sure you’re going exactly where you expect to go. If you don’t know the site you’re asked to visit, then use a search engine (Yahoo!, Google, Bing, etc.) to look it up.

I know it’s an extra step, but you’ll be much safer using that practice.

Until next month, be safe out there!