Why Hackers Love Tax Season (And What You Can Do About It)
The tax season is a harrowing time for countless people around the world. Except for accountants and hackers, everyone hates the tax season. Hackers who are after valuable data particularly love this time of the year. You might even find them covertly lobbying for the season to be extended and enhanced. At this time of the year, the transfer of personal and financial information is significantly higher than at any other. Anyone and everyone eligible and on the grid will be using the Internet to transfer documents such as W2s. These will be substantiated with social security numbers. Because of the frantic work pace, it is quite possible for covert hackers to tap into databases and steal vital info. So in an environment ideal for human error and cons, hackers naturally thrive.
Taxes are Taxing – Mentally as well as Financially
Many modern hackers do not employ high-tech equipment to break into secure web space. Rather, they con people into revealing their personal information. When the tax season is on, there is already a lot of back and forth going on. So hackers can take advantage of that and work things out for their benefit.
Among all hacking tactics, phishing is the most common one and the most successful. Through sophisticated tech and mimicking, hackers rob people of their essential financial info. One example is hackers accessing company email accounts. They would then read the language used and send an email that looks identical in which they request sensitive data when the time is right.
Phishing scams are present all over the net, so sending any financial data via email is risky. It would be wise to have your accountant set up an encrypted file transfer protocol before you send your information across.
Millions of American Social Security Numbers Stolen
In 2017, a shocking piece of news hit the market. Over 143 million social security numbers were compromised. Equifax, a credit monitoring firm based in Atlanta, revealed that hackers were able to access sensitive information between May and July. They did it by using a US web app.
Several records containing names, addresses, DoBs, and social security numbers were stolen. Some accounts also had their driver’s license details stolen. Alongside, about 210,000 credit card numbers were stolen as well. This is a grim scenario.
Why Does This Happen?
There are several reasons for why Tax season is popular with hackers. The first is that accountants tend to be overworked and their emails overflowing with sensitive details from their clients. Due to the massive workload, accountants often unwittingly fall prey to phishing.
IRS Agent Cons
Another important reason is that people want to avoid audits. So hackers often directly contact potential victims as IRS agents. It is important to note that no genuine IRS agent will do that. However, a lot of people fall for the trick and reveal their personal financial information.
One recent development that affects this domain is the Dark Web. All the stolen personal financial data such as social security numbers are cheaply available on the Dark Web. Essentially, a criminal only needs your name and SSN to rob you of your funds. A few carefully curated income numbers and they have access to your refunds.
How Do I Avoid Getting Hacked Financially?
In a nutshell, you need to make early form submissions. If you promptly submit the right documents, this will eliminate the possibility of a fraud.
How Do I Protect My Clients as a Financial Company?
As a company, your business sustainability depends on protecting your clients from fraud. So you should implement the following practices in your protocol:
Consider the source of communications
All IRS communications are done through US Mail. They never contact anyone over the phone or through emails. Be wary of any such communication. Also, if someone internally requests any financial details, it would be wise to track them and authenticate them before fulfillment.
Training for Secure Financial Practices
This is important for all businesses and not just financial houses. Your organization must implement a robust cybersecurity strategy. It would be smart to train your employees on the verified practices and protocols for tax seasons. As most leaks occur because of employee error, having in-depth training related to cybersecurity at your workplace will go a long way in guaranteeing security.
This one is a basic for all businesses. Collaborate with an IT partner or have an in-house IT department. They will ensure cybersecurity integrity and eliminate virtually all chances of a breach. It’s important that all departments get a set of protocols to follow. With the right security protocols, your data will stay safe and not be affected by common cyber scams.
Another tool you can use to stay safe from hackers is a VPN. Since a VPN encrypts your data, even if a hacker intercepts your network and gains access to your information, it will be encrypted, which means the hacker will be unable to make sense of it. This is why hackers hate it when people use VPNs.
Hackers Love Tax Season – Bottom Line
Online scams are very popular and abound the internet. However, tax season is primetime for them. It would be wise to be vigilant and exercise caution, especially during this time of the year. With the right knowledge of how these scams are perpetrated, you should be able to protect yourself and your clients. Take care to follow the best practices and latest protocols. This will ensure no hackers can get their hand on your sensitive information.