This morning I received an email that appeared to come from a Better Business Bureau BBB.org email address. The email subject is Your accountant CPA license termination.
I’ve been at this internet thing long enough to recognize a tax scam email when I see one, but common sense tells me these scammers wouldn’t be in business if people weren’t believing everything they read. If you’d like to learn how to investigate an email for scam activity, check out the methods I use described in this article.
Tax Scam Emails Look Legit
I’ve taken a screenshot of the scam email I received. This is a “phishing” scam! This image shows the exact email I received, however, it’s important to note these emails come in various shapes and sizes. Take a look at this email, then read on. I will show you how to examine an email to determine whether it’s a scam or if it’s something you should check into further.
Ways to Check Links for Scams or Viruses
Method 1: The Simple Mouse Over
ALWAYS mouse over (NEVER CLICK) links to see where they actually go.
When I have the slightest doubt about a link that I may want to click -I always check links before I click them. It’s just good practice!
This doesn’t just pertain to scams linked to taxes and the IRS. These scams often include hot topics like flm loans, duct cleaning, iforex, credit scores, college degrees and so on. Scams and risks may even come unknowingly from someone you trust. I’ll share more on that in just a bit.
The first thing you need to do is very simple! Simply place your curser/mouse over the link you wish to check. This can be links from within the body of the email or even the email address itself.
Again, Remember to Mouse Over Links (DO NOT CLICK) – I obviously can’t stress that rule enough!
The images I share just below show the actual link destinations from my “mouse over technique” – I chose to share images because I refuse to provide search engine juice to the actual link destinations.
First, I placed my mouse/curser over the link Complaint.pdf – the destination showed:
Next, I placed my mouse/curser over the Email: service @ aicpa.org link – the destination showed:
Now about those trusted sources and relatives!
Let’s say I receive an email from an aunt I love and trust – the email looks like something she would send, so I’m curious about the links. And let’s say that I know my aunt doesn’t know how to perform proper maintenance on their computer.
I’m going to want to check those links!
Method 2: Check Links With a Free Online Virus, Malware and URL Scanner
To do this, you will place your mouse/curser over the link and RIGHT CLICK (DO NOT CLICK REGULARLY). When you do this, it should show a popup option menu as shown in the image just below. You’re going to select the Copy Link Location option:
Once you have the link location, you can carry that link over to Virus Total (link). Virus Total is a free online virus, malware and URL scanner. Under the giant blue SCAN IT button, select the option to SCAN A URL.
Place your mouse in the ENTER URL space provided as shown in this image:
Now you can click that giant blue SCAN IT! button to determine if the link is safe.
Method 3: Conduct a Search for Specific Tax Scams or Tax Scam Emails
This option for investigating an email for possible scam activity is a simple Google Search. There are a few ways I conduct a search to ensure I’m getting the truest result.
It’s that OCD thing that has me checking the coffee pot multiple times to make sure it’s off.
First, I take key words from the email itself. Whether those are in the subject line or within the body itself. In this case, the company being represented and the subject matter is where I start.
I go to Google and type in AICPA scam tax fraud into the search. This image shows the top results of that search
If you aren’t happy with the results from this search, you can try using quotation marks with a more specific search like this one:
“AICPA Income Tax Fraud” Scam (notice where I’ve placed the quotation marks)
Finally, consumers should be aware that the bogus tax professional who is ready to steal your information.
Scammers rely on e-mail, for tax-related "phishing" attacks that carry victims to malicious webpages. One widely-circulating email asked recipients to fill out a "1042-W " form, print it, and then fax it to a number located in Alberta, Canada. This is an obvious attempt at identity theft.
It’s predicted that more than 100 million IRS-related phishing emails will reach taxpayers both before and after the April 15 tax filing deadline.
It’s also expected that cyber-thieves will find ways to attack any tax-related services routed through smartphones. Mobile devices may be referred to as "smart" – they’re still a hot target for hackers, hijackers and thieves.
Be smart! If you receive an email, phone call or letter through the U.S. Postal Service that you’re not quite sure of, use the methods shown or drop me an email. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Do you have an experience to share? Leave a comment!
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