At TikTok, we're always looking for ways to uplift our global community to #BeCyberSmart. Last year, the IRS identified over $10 billion in losses from tax fraud and financial crimes. With Tax Day around the corner, cybercriminals may be primed to unleash a range of nefarious tactics -- whether on a connected device or a landline -- to trick people into unwittingly handing out sensitive information.
Some TikTok creators are taking their expertise to #TaxTok to help others stay ahead of fraudsters that continually evolve their tactics. These Certified Public Accountants, lawyers, and fraud fighters are spotlighting ways to avoid falling victim to scams. Drawing from the IRS, along with leading experts like the Identity Theft Resource Center (@idtheftcenter_) and National Cybersecurity Alliance (@natlcybersecalliance), we're spotlighting some of our favorite tips to #BeCyberSmart this tax season.
- Ignore imposters – Phishing and smishing are the most common tactics used to steal personal data. The IRS will not call, text, email, or visit your home. They will not accept payment in gift cards, prepaid debit cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency. Don’t open links or attachments from suspicious senders. Scams related to COVID-19, Economic Impact Payments, and other tax law changes are increasingly common this year.
- Verify what you see – Fake IRS sites are scattered all over the online world. The official site is IRS.gov, and all IRS.gov web page addresses begin with https://www.irs.gov/. Beyond tax tips, if you're on e-commerce sites, ensure the web address begins with“https” – the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. Also check for the “padlock” icon in the browser's address bar meaning there's a secure connection between the browser and the server where the website is hosted.
- Use secure Wi-Fi, VPN, and 2-step verification - Don't trust unsecured public Wi-Fi, especially in airplanes, airports, malls, or public transit. Use a virtual private network (VPN) whether on the go or at home, and secure home Wi-Fi networks with a strong password. This is essential as wireless printers, door locks, and refrigerators create new access points for people with bad intentions. Enable 2-step verification for an added layer of security.
- Have a back-up plan - Use a secure cloud service or external hard drive to copy important information, like photos and files on computers and mobile devices, as a lifeline to recover financial or other tax data if lost.
- Protect with a PIN - Taxpayers who can validate their identities can obtain an Identity Protection PIN, a six-digit code that prevents an identity thief from filing a fraudulent tax return using your Social Security number.
Reporting potential scams helps prevent future attempts and protect others. Report IRS, Treasury, or other scam attempts to the FTC, IRS, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or Identity Theft Resource Center. If you encounter suspicious activity in-app, report it to TikTok's Safety Center, and follow @TikTokTips for more ways to #BeCyberSmart.
“Whether or not you are ready for tax season, the identity criminals are, so it's a good time to remind friends and family to stay vigilant and #BeCyberSmart,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center (@idtheftcenter_). "File your taxes as early as possible, do your research before handing information over to a tax preparer, and use a secure internet connection to file online or mail it directly from the post office if you don’t.”
"What's scarier than the IRS? Someone pretending to be from the IRS," said PJ Rohall, Co-Founder of About-Fraud (@aboutfraud). "Tax scammers will milk you for more money and cause more emotional damage than a lifetime of filing tax returns or interacting with legitimate IRS agents."
"Tax season is a haven for identity theft, so it's critical to do your due diligence before handing over personal information," said Gabriel Friedlander, founder of Wizer - Free Security Awareness Training (@wizersecurity). "When it comes to tax preparation services, it's best to work with a reputable professional that comes recommended by a friend or family member."
"Bad actors look for any chance to accomplish their agenda of nefarious schemes, and tax season can leave the most vulnerable at risk," said Ian Mitchell (@ian.t.mitchell_), founder of The Knoble. "TikTok's #BeCyberSmart initiative is a powerful step to fight back by raising awareness to prevent cybercriminals from targeting unsuspecting victims."
"We know how stressful tax season can be, and we're proud to partner with the IRS to share tips on how to stay safe when filing taxes this year," said Lisa Plaggemier, Executive Director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance (@natlcybersecalliance). "It's critical for the TikTok community and everyone online to do research, report potential scams, and secure their online accounts."
In partnership with our fraud awareness champions, we developed a bingo card as another fun way for people to brush up on their cybersecurity skills. Good luck, and remember to always #BeCyberSmart!