(NBC NEWS) — Tax day is just weeks away and that means the efforts of online scammers hoping to take advantage are in full swing.
According to security firm McAfee, 63 percent of Americans are filing their taxes online this year, and 12 percent of those are doing it for the first time.
Many scams involve messages using stimulus checks or the COVID-19 vaccine, designed to extract personal information or attract a click on a malicious link.
Sometimes con artists impersonate the IRS, using threats to demand immediate payment or get valuable information to use for identity theft.
“If you receive an email from the IRS don’t open,” warns McAfee’s Judith Bitterli. “Don’t click on it, because the IRS does not use email.”
Security experts say you can protect yourself by ignoring calls, texts and emails from unknown senders.
You should also change social media privacy settings so hackers can’t see information like your birth date or where you live.
If possible, you should also use a virtual private network, or VPN, when filing.
“It’s a digital tunnel between you and the IRS that keeps what you send safe and secure,” Bitterli explains.
That decreases the chances that your return will fall into the wrong hands.
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