Benjamin Franklin once said only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. And practically everyone can agree – taxes are certain. So, it’s only natural that cybercriminals are trying to take advantage of the certainty of taxes by finding ways to steal all the crucial personal data floating around during tax season. From deceptive phishing scams, to physical theft – we’ve seen the exploitation of W-2s becoming a major trend as tax season is underway.
We saw W-2 phishing scams run rampant last year, and unfortunately this year is no different.
Just this past week, we saw a deceptive phishing attack compromise the personal information of 100 Waldo County employees in Maine. It began with a cybercriminal impersonating a county official and requesting confidential employee information, including W-2 forms and social security numbers. Easily deceived, an employee sent over the data and just like that, Waldo County employees were faced with potential identity theft. And this isn’t the first case we’ve seen in 2018, as earlier in February the City of Pittsburg was hit by a phishing scheme in which an employee was tricked into giving up the W-2 information of both current and former employees.
W-2 theft isn’t just digital either, as there’s a chance that thieves may head to physical mailboxes and open them in the hopes of discovering envelopes containing W-2 forms. In fact, authorities in Minnesota are expecting such thing to occur and have been warning residents to be extra vigilant with their mail.
So, whether the thievery is digital or physical, it’s important we all start taking action to protect against W-2 theft and secure our personal identities this tax season. To do just that, follow these tips:
- File before cybercriminals do it for you. The easiest defense you can take against tax seasons schemes is to get your hands on your W-2 and file as soon as possible. The more prompt you are to file, the less likely your data will be raked in by a cybercriminal.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report. FYI – you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. So, make it a habit to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. That way, you can keep better track of and monitor any suspicious activity and act early if something appears fishy.
- Beware of phishing attempts. It’s clear that phishing is the primary tactic crooks are leveraging this tax season, so it’s crucial you stay vigilant around your inbox. This means if any unfamiliar or remotely suspicious emails come through requesting tax data, double check their legitimacy with a manager or the security department before you respond. Remember: the IRS only contacts people by snail mail, so if you get an email from someone claiming to be from the IRS, stay away.
- Consider an identity theft protection solution. If for some reason your personal data does become compromised, be sure to you an identity theft solution such as McAfee Identity Theft Protection, which allows users to take a proactive approach to protecting their identities with personal and financial monitoring and recovery tools to help keep their identities personal and secured.