Tax season. Two words guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of many. For accountants, it means business is booming; for everyone else, it means sorting through boxes of receipts and trying to make sense of the various tax laws. But for almost everyone, regardless of your job, income level, or location, tax season can leave you vulnerable to cases of fraud and criminal activity.
During tax season, cybercrime actually increases, as more and more people look to file their taxes online. It’s a time when those stressed out by the task at hand generally aren’t as careful with their sensitive information as they should be. Phishing scams spike during this period - something we’ve seen increasing in Canada with fake emails imitating the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA). Many of us fall for these specific phishing scams because the timing of these fake emails aligns with their tax filing schedule. In some cases, the scammers have been able to imitate the look and design of the real CRA emails to a very high degree of accuracy.
We’ve also seen scammers attack a business from the inside. Employees can expect to hear from their HR departments frequently during tax season. In some cases, hackers will create phishing emails that look similar to the ones sent by a company’s executives or HR department.
These emails, like the fake CRA emails, then prompt employees to provide their confidential information on a website that they control. Or they include attachments that seem important -and, when opened, launch ransomware which can be incredibly dangerous for your business.
So how do you protect yourself and your business? Keep these tips in mind this tax season:
- Look for the “s” in the web address. All websites that are truly secure will begin with an https://. If the website you’re visiting starts with “http://” then be aware that any personal or sensitive information you enter isn’t safe.
- Update your passwords. Use this tax season as a time to update all of your passwords. Aim to make them hard to guess by using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Check your network. Don’t do work on unsecured or public networks. Ensure that if you’re filing your taxes or checking out banking information, you’re doing so on a secured network - like your personal wi-fi at home that is password protected.
Take extra caution and don’t fall victim to cyber fraud this tax season. Be vigilant with the online work you’re doing - and make sure you pass along these tips to your family and friends!