Published February 05, 2017

Phishing awareness

Monmouth accounting professor cautions to be on alert for tax scams
As a tax professional, Monmouth College accounting professor Judy Peterson wants the public to be aware of phishing scams that target taxpayers during this time of the year.

Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service warned taxpayers to watch out for fake emails or websites that seek to steal personal information. The agency saw a big spike in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season, and new and evolving phishing schemes have recently been seen.

“Taxpayers should avoid using search engines to find help with their taxes,” Peterson said. “Selecting the wrong site could lead to an infected computer and loss of data.”

The IRS noted that criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.

“Taxpayers should avoid opening surprise emails or clicking on web links claiming to be from the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled by unexpected emails about big refunds, tax bills or requesting personal information. That’s not how the IRS communicates with taxpayers.”

Koskinen said it’s important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

A taxpayer receiving an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov. Learn more by going to https://www.irs.gov/uac/report-phishing.

Peterson is now in tax season herself, as she oversees the College’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which prepares free returns for local taxpayers. The first VITA session is Feb. 4 at the College’s Center for Science and Business. VITA sessions will continue on most Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through April 12.

More information, including what to bring to a VITA session in addition to photo identification and Social Security cards, is available at: monmouthcollege.edu/academics/accounting/vita/.
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