IRS Offers Advice on How You Can Avoid Being Scammed This Holiday Season

Hacker thief with santa hat stealing information from a credit card.
domoyega / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Those elves at the North Pole aren’t the only ones busy this time of year. Scammers are, too, because there’s no better time to commit fraud than when a lot of people are spending a lot of money on a lot of things in a lot of different places.

See: 5 Essential Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Online Scams
Find: How To Get Fraudulent Charges Removed From Your Credit Card

To help prevent identify theft, tax scams and other types of fraud that increase over the holidays, the IRS, state tax agencies and tax professionals are partnering together under the banner of the “Security Summit.” The summit kicked things off on Monday with National Tax Security Awareness Week, an annual event to spread the word about scams and how to avoid them.

“We urge people to be extra careful with their personal and financial information during this period while shopping online or getting suspicious emails or text,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a press release. “Taking a few simple steps can keep people from becoming victims of identity theft and protect their sensitive personal information needed for tax returns and refunds.”

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Here are some steps the IRS recommends to protect your information and avoid scams this holiday season:

  • Use security software for computers, tablets and mobile phones, and make sure it’s updated.
  • Check that your anti-virus software can stop malware, and also check that there’s a firewall to prevent intrusions.
  • To prevent phishing scams such as fraudulent emails, calls and texts, don’t open links or attachments on suspicious emails. Common fraud scams this year might be related to COVID-19, federal stimulus payments and tax law changes.
  • Use strong and unique passwords for all online accounts.
  • When possible, use multi-factor authentication to prevent thieves from easily hacking accounts, especially for social media accounts.
  • For online shopping, only use sites where the web address begins with “https” (the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network). You should also look for the “padlock” icon in the browser window.
  • Don’t shop or make financial transactions on unsecured wi-fi in public places such as malls and restaurants.
  • Double-check that your home wi-fi is secured with a password. Unsecured wi-fi is often used as an access point for identity thieves.

See: Pandemic Fraudsters Swindled Nearly $500 Million From Americans — And They’re Not Finished Yet
Find: Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion Penalties Explained

A special emphasis will be placed on social media and tax scams for all ages. The IRS notes you do not need to file a tax return to be targeted.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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