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Cybersecurity experts seeing pandemic-related tax scams hitting email inboxes

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Posted at 8:25 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 22:25:21-04

There are always scams around tax season, but this year, cybersecurity experts are seeing a new twist: thousands of messages and dozens of email campaigns related to the pandemic.

"Trickbot" hit just this past March. It's trying to steal your bank information. Some of the emails look so authentic, it's easy to click, which is of course what the hackers are hoping you'll do.

“They’re very careful and are quite clever; many of them have entire teams of graphic designers that just work on making those emails look really legitimate, so it's something you have to look closely for and watch out for," said Sherrod DeGrippo, who is basically a computer detective.

“We’re spread around the world. We watch threats in real times as they happen.”

These days, those threats are about COVID-19 and the stimulus.

"We've seen a lot of threats that say, 'hey, you'll get a stimulus, we'll put your taxes through, all you need to do to get your refund is put in your bank, your banking login, your banking password,'” Sherrod said.

Sherrod and her team have identified more than 30 tax-themed email campaigns from around the world.

“A lot of these threat actors, they just wait for these events to happen each year that they know will be top of mind for people and they leverage those, take advantage of the mindset.”

They're hard to track and hard to punish. So, what can you do?

For starters, just don't click.

“When they’re opening their email or looking at messages coming across their phone, they have to say to themselves, 'is this legitimate?' Something to remember is that the IRS does not email you.”

And she says to never give out your banking information.

“They can get in between your session when you’re browsing to your bank for your online banking, and maybe you type in website address for your bank and you think you’re interacting with your bank, but you’re actually interacting with a fake website that one of the threat actors put in front of you. You put your user and password in like always, and they actually go in the background, transfer all of the money out of that bank account into their own.”

Her best advice? Just delete, even if you're curious.