Personal SecuritySecurity Culture

Protect Yourself Online with the IRS and FTC Guidelines

There was an 870% increase in W-2 themed phishing emails in 2017, making tax-based identity theft one of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen” most prevalent frauds.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the USA’s lead consumer protection agency. As part of the job, it publishes an online consumer information blog including a Privacy, Identity and Online Security section. This section has useful advice and warnings covering a broad range of online scams and risks to individuals.

There is also useful information on how to deal with an increasing attack on citizens—fake tax returns.

As previously reported by CNBC, the scam involves a fraudster that is in possession of an individual’s Social Security Number (SSN) and other information. The imposter files a fraudulent tax return, stealing any refund the taxpayer may be due in the process.

This week the FTC’s consumer blog includes guidance on how to report tax identity theft electronically. This is an effort towards streamlining the process of filing an IRS Form 14039, advising on other steps you can take to safeguard your identity and prevent the incident causing you further harm.

Checking out the FTC’s Scam Alerts section is also a good idea. The more you know about how fraudsters and other criminals operate, the more prepared you will be to recognize a scam when the fraudsters target you.

Here are some 2017 excerpts of statistics on email phishing from Barkly to give you food for thought:

  • The volume of spam emails increased 4x in 2016. (Source: IBM Threat Intelligence Index 2017)
  • 1 in 131 emails contained malware in 2016, the highest rate in 5 years. (Source: Symantec 2017 Internet Security Threat Report)
  • Fake invoice messages are the #1 type of phishing lure. (Source: Symantec 2017 Internet Security Threat Report)
  • Apple IDs are the #1 target for credential theft emails. (Source: Proofpoint 2017 Human Factor Report)
  • More than 400 businesses are targeted by BEC scams every day. (Source: Symantec 2017 Internet Security Threat Report)
  • Reports of W-2 phishing emails increased 870% in 2017. (Source: IRS Return Integrity Compliance Services)
  • 76% of organizations reported being victim of a phishing attack in 2016. (Source: Wombat Security State of the Phish 2017)

Check out the Barkly post for further commentary and links to referenced sources.

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