Typically around this time of the year, national revenue agencies around the world ask people to file their tax reports. With more options to file taxes online – fraudsters and scammers lurk. With ever growing numbers of online tax fraud, NordVPN offers some general advice and warning signs to watch out for, applicable across many tax filing systems.
1. Be aware of ‘spoofed’ websites that look like official websites but are not. After a fraudster builds such a site, they will usually send you an email asking to verify your information (due to security breach or any other reason). Known as phishing, these emails typically contain a link (that you should not click on) and ask a bunch of personal questions to verify your identity (that you should not answer). One way to distinguish an official website from a fraudulent one is by using HTTPS URL.
2. Beware of websites promising inflated refunds. This scam often involves fraudulent tax refund ‘specialists’, who might offer to file your taxes for you, yet scam you out of the refund you are entitled to. Make sure to check the background of your tax service provider to see if they are registered with national revenue service.
3. If you receive a phone call about your tax returns. Keep in mind that national revenue agencies would not call you to ask for a payment. So don’t give out any sensitive information over the phone.
4. Use a VPN when giving sensitive information online. In addition to making sure that a site you use has ‘https’ in its URL, make sure you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when you perform just about any transaction online. VPN encrypts your connection traffic. They are one of the best security mechanisms you can employ to make sure the data you share over the Internet is safe from prying eyes.
5. Strong passwords. Fraudsters are stealing usernames and passwords of taxpayers: make sure you regularly change your password and your password is not easy to guess.
6. Public Wi-Fi. Never file taxes via public wifi hotspot – if you have no choice and have to, always use a VPN to keep your information private.
7. Social media rules. Set your social media pages as private/‘inaccessible’ to the whole world (criminals can explore how many children you have, and get other information about you that they can use on your tax returns).
8. Storing your tax return info. Keep your tax return information and sensitive data backed up in an encrypted hardware.
9. Educate everyone in your family about cyber security and online safety.Teach your family members to use strong passwords, explain the dangers of public Wi-Fi, and share news of hacks and scams.
10. When the tax season is over, your online precautions should not diminish.Fraudsters lurk online all the time and can steal your data when you shop online, do banking transactions or go on Facebook. Don’t reveal your financial information on social channels (i.e. WhatsApp or Facebook), beware of open Wi-Fi threats, and don’t leave your flight ticket stubs lying around /don’t photograph them either (they have encoded personal data). Make sure you use a VPN service year round to make your online activities safe.
Have a cautionary tale to share with us? Any tips or advise you might want to share with others? Please do not hesitate to write them down in the comments section below. Stay safe!