Tips Guard Against Phishing, Malware Attacks During Tax Season
AppRiver LLC, a provider of email messaging and Web security solutions, today released its latest Threat and Spamscape report as well as a new video offering taxpayers advice on how to safeguard against cyber scams while filing taxes online.
AppRiver’s Threat and Spamscape report traces and analyzes the spam and malware trends prevalent on the Internet. According to Fred Touchette, report author and senior security analyst at AppRiver, 84 percent of all email traffic surveyed in the month of March was spam.
“With billions of dollars changing hands online, tax season is primetime for Internet scams,” said Touchette. “The best defense for taxpayers is multilayered security that includes anti-virus software, email and Web filtering, and a strong firewall. Those tools, along with some good common sense, are the keys to keeping your money safe.”
A key highlight from the report describes how scammers exploit tax season by targeting tax preparers. Throughout the past several weeks, for example, cyber criminals have utilized the “Blackhole” toolkit to send virus-laden emails purportedly from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as well as Intuit, a company known for their accounting software. With convincing graphics and formatting, messages warned recipients of accounting professionals who were engaging in fraudulent filing practices, details of which were viewable in an attached PDF file. In reality, the attachment was a link to a website hosting malware.
To avoid becoming a victim of a tax scam, Touchette shares these best practice tips:
- Online fraudsters (a.k.a. “phishers”) will attempt to contact taxpayers via email, whereas the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer through email.
- The IRS will never ask for PIN numbers or credit card information via email.
- Never click on a link, or an attachment, from an unsolicited email.
- Never conduct unsecured transactions that include any account or password information over public hotspots, such as airports, hotels, libraries, restaurants, cafes, or other locations that offer free Wi-Fi services.
- Always completely log out of sensitive sites. It is possible for an attacker to hijack a browsing session that has been left open.
- Avoid using the same computer your children use. A good portion of online scams target today's youth, which often infects machines.
- Remain vigilant and try to use simple logic -- if it seems too good to be true, and is sitting in your inbox, delete it.
- Before entering sensitive information into a website, look for the security padlock symbol.
- Create strong passwords by choosing passwords that are complex and utilize a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.