It’s another tax season, and while most companies scramble to file their Internal Revenue Service (IRS) returns, scammers will be looking to capitalize on the chaos. Con artists use this time to elicit sensitive information from individuals and businesses, using the IRS as their preferred moniker. Luckily, this isn’t the first rodeo for the nation’s tax professionals, and they’ve provided a list of what the latest strategies are.
One particular area where cybercriminals will focus their efforts is by deploying ransomware into a company or personal network. These attacks matured over the years and now pose a significant threat to organizations. Whenever an attack succeeds, it could shut down business operations entirely and in the most severe cases, could put the entire company at risk. Between 2018 and 2019, ransomware attacks on companies increased by 365%, making these exploits an existential threat faced by every business.
4 Latest Tax-Related Ransomware Scams as Defined by the IRS
Scammers use the tax season to carry out a variety of frauds. As this is a hectic period for most organizations trying to complete their tax returns, it’s easy for companies to fall into the trap. Knowing what scams to look for can help a company avoid an attempted cybersecurity attack from succeeding.
1. Intimidating Phone Calls
Fraudsters will impersonate IRS agents and often threaten business owners to elicit personal information from employees. The IRS noted an increase in these attempts during the last year and warned companies not to fall for them. If the company believes the caller is actually from the IRS, they are more likely to fall for this deception and provide scammers with personal information that should have remained private. The IRS recommends that companies should never provide information such as a Social Security Number (SSN) or even provide employee ID numbers over the phone.
2. Phishing Emails and Fake Correspondence
One of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to gain access to personal information is by using a phishing campaign. Email attachments can contain malware, where links could direct users to fraudulent sites designed to harvest personal information. Scam artists will go to great lengths to ensure their emails look like the real deal. If anyone clicks on a link and tries to log in to a fake site, the criminals capture this information and use it to defraud the company.
Opening an email attachment that contains malware could also install an exploit on the PC. Once the software exists on a single workstation, it’ll allow hackers to monitor the network remotely and deploy additional exploits that can compromise the entire company. Companies must remember the IRS will never request personal information in an email, and if an employee receives a suspicious email, staff should immediately report it to the department responsible for their network security.
3. Tax Avoidance and Shelter Schemes
Another way criminals can defraud companies is by using fake tax avoidance or shelter schemes. These rely on greed and tempts business owners to move revenue to areas where they won’t have the same scrutiny as institutions inside the country. While it may be tempting, it’s always best to avoid any offer that sounds too good to be true. Companies should also note that the IRS is actively working to eliminate abusive tax shelters, and anyone caught using one may be liable to criminal prosecution.
4. Fake Charitable Contributions
Often, during the tax season, companies may attempt to alleviate their tax burden by donating money to charities. Scammers know this and may try to lure companies into contributing to fake charities. It’s always good practice to verify the status of every charity with local, state, or federal institutions. If the company ends up making a major contribution to a fake charity, not only will they lose the funds but also they will remain liable for their tax contribution.
Avoid Scammers and Ransomware Risks This Tax Season
It’s common for scammers to double their efforts during the tax season. They understand that companies face additional pressure to file accurate tax returns and expect communications from the IRS during this period. Criminals may use legitimate social security codes to file fraudulent tax returns, attempt to compromise networks with malicious communications, and elicit fake contributions from organizations.
Ransomware attacks pose an existential threat to organizations. Defending against an evolving threat will require access to network security experts. CDS Office Technologies provides a range of business productivity solutions that could help companies secure their networks during these trying times. With CDS Office Technologies, companies gain access to a team of security experts who will work diligently to protect their sensitive information. To ensure companies do not fall into these traps set by scammers, they will have to learn to recognize, detect, and avoid these attempts at fraud.
To discuss your organization’s network security or to help prevent a ransomware attack from succeeding, request an assessment from CDS Office Technologies today.