The IRS is warning taxpayers about a potential threat to their personal and financial information, as SMS phishing scams have reportedly risen exponentially in just the last few weeks.
In 2022, navigating the online world without compromising your security is nearly impossible. Ransomware attacks, security breaches, and yes, phishing scams are lurking around every corner, waiting to snatch up your personal and financial information at every turn.
The trend doesn't appear to be going anywhere, either, as the IRS has issued a warning that phishing scams are becoming more and more prevalent, particularly those that impersonate the tax collection agency.
IRS Warns of Significant Increase in Text Phishing Scams
Announced in a press release from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), SMS phishing — or smishing — scams have risen “exponentially” over the last few months, with the largest rise coming in the last few weeks.
“This is phishing on an industrial scale so thousands of people can be at risk of receiving these scam messages. In recent months, the IRS has reported multiple large-scale smishing campaigns that have delivered thousands – and even hundreds of thousands – of IRS-themed messages in hours or a few days, far exceeding previous levels of activity.” – IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig
Even worse, the scammers are outright impersonating the IRS in service of collecting personal and financial information from users. These texts appeal to unsuspecting users with promises of “fake COVID relief, tax credits or help setting up an IRS online account.”
How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams
These smishing scams can be pretty unsettling, particularly when it comes from a scammer pretending to be the IRS. After all, if it isn't a scam, you could end up in jail, which makes it that much more alarming. So how can you protect yourself from these IRS-themed phishing scams?
“Particularly in these cases, the best offense is a good defense. Taxpayers and tax pros need to remain constantly vigilant with suspicious IRS-related emails and text messages. And if you get one, sending the IRS important details from the text can help us disrupt the scams and protect others.” – IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig
In addition to being vigilant, the IRS has set up a specific email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for taxpayers to send suspected scams to in order to cut down on the potential threat.
If you really want to take your online safety seriously, vigilance isn't going to cut it, though, particularly if you're a business that has been under-investing in cybersecurity.
Generally speaking, you should be investing in a full-on IT department to evaluate your cybersecurity needs. Still, if you're looking to keep costs low, tools like password managers and antivirus software will help bolster your business' security, aiding you in fending off malware and brute force attacks on your network and your credentials.