Sponsored - Social engineering: the art of exploiting human psychology to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information to be used for fraudulent purposes. In other words, social engineering is a scam-in-progress. With tax season underway, cybercriminals are waiting for their chance to exploit unsuspecting individuals.
Social engineering is a full-time job that has proven to be very successful, and therefore, the scammers are savvy to get what they want. Scammers are impersonating government agencies and sending emails, text messages and direct mail to consumers and small businesses. The goal? To initiate fear or anxiety to trick tax filers out of their personal information and refunds. With many people still working from home on various devices connected to unsecured networks, taxpayers are more vulnerable than ever.
Who is the most vulnerable to social engineering?
Small business owners, new taxpayers under the age of 25, and seasoned taxpayers over 60 are often prime targets for socially engineered tax scams. Cybercriminals assume these individuals may be vulnerable to emotional manipulation and less informed about tax policies. Scams may claim that the potential victim has missed a vital tax deadline, thereby pressuring victims to act fast out of fear.
How to Protect Yourself Against Tax Refund Scams
Knowing what to look for can prepare taxpayers from falling victim to tax season social engineering attacks. Tips for effectively defending against social engineering attacks include:
- Look for grammatical issues, typos, and sender information: Phishing emails often contain errors that a keen eye can easily detect. If a message includes spelling or grammar errors throughout, or if the sender’s email address has different numbers or symbols, it is probably fake.
- Be skeptical: Always be suspicious of any unexpected emails or phone calls claiming to be from the IRS or other government agencies. If you are concerned about a sender or caller’s legitimacy, contact the IRS or government agency directly on your own to verify.
- Don’t share personal information: Never give out your social security number or credit card information over the phone or via email. Social engineers may pressure you to do so by threatening a consequence to inaction, such as property seizure.
- Take steps to prevent attacks: 46Solutions uses cybersecurity awareness training, end-point detection and response (EDR), and a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system to keep our clients safe. Together, these systems gather data from all parts of the network and your cloud services to detect and alert us to ‘interesting’ patterns of behavior. Our Security Operations Center (SOC) team monitors and investigates these alerts 24/7 so you can sleep a little easier at night knowing your business is fully protected.
Socially engineered tax scams continue year-round, and if executed properly, will initiate fear and anxiety in the target. Knowing the signs of social engineering and how the IRS contacts taxpayers will reduce these worries. To fully protect your business’s data from getting into the wrong hands, and to mitigate these types of risks, contact 46Solutions for cybersecurity and social engineering training.