As if the mad rush for Americans to collect all the necessary financial data and file their taxes wasn't bad enough, cybercrooks are beefing up spam attacks concerning taxes as April 15 approaches.
Some spammers are targeting the wildly popular, do-it-yourself tax software giant TurboTax with an e-mail message telling the recipient to download software updates in order to comply with new IRS requirements. But the URL provided doesn't take you to TurboTax's official Web site. According to Symantec Security, you are delivered to a URL made up of a blank page with a pop-up window instructing you to download a file, which is really a virus.
The IRS describes suspicious e-mails, commonly known as phishing, as "the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be an established legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for identity theft."
Intuit's TurboTax spokesman Scott Gulbransen told AccountingWEB that as tax season approaches, this type of scam, which he describes as "despicable" becomes more popular. Approximately 15 million people use TurboTax to prepare their taxes, a blockbuster brand for scam artists.
"These phishing scams are something we see all the time as far as tax season," Gulbransen said. "We always tell customers and we put educational information on our Web site and in our products that we'll never e-mail you and ask for personal information whatsoever. You can bet it's not from us so don't click through, don't keep those e-mails, don't do anything."
The TurboTax spam e-mail message is similar to many other spam e-mails people receive daily that appear to be coming from trusted banks and financial institutions around the globe. They look legitimate but can unleash a virus or seek to obtain financial or personal information that should not be given out. Gulbransen said spammers will glom onto any major brand because they know people have trust in those brands.
"If someone gets something from us that is unsolicited or if they have any questions, they should contact us. But please know we're not sending out any information that they need to update software with a link or asking for more information like a Social Security number. We never do that," he said.
Taxes are a sensitive issue and with more than 70 percent of people getting a refund, Gulbransen said they see the e-mail and may be more apt to access the message than they would at any other time of the year. He urges people to visit turbotaxsupport.com for tips on how to protect your online privacy and security.
FOXBusiness.com reports that taxpayers have forwarded to the IRS more than 33,000 spam e-mail messages that mimic a trusted source, representing about 1,500 different scams. The IRS doesn't contact taxpayers by e-mail and if you have received an unsolicited e-mail from the IRS, you can forward the message to email@example.com.