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McAfee Research Unveils Tax Troubles: 1 in 4 Americans Lose Money to Online Tax Scams

McAfee, a global leader in online protection, today released the results of its 2024 Tax Scams Study. The study surveyed 2,500 adults in the US to understand how online scams, including AI-powered mes...

Business Wire

McAfee blocked more than one million attempts to engage with malicious, tax-related URLs in February alone*, as the tax filing deadline approaches and more than half of consumers (54%) struggle to differentiate between scam and legitimate messages. 

  • Less than half (49%) of Americans are confident in their ability to identify deepfake videos or AI-generated audio featuring fake IRS agents or tax authorities.
  • 68% of people clicking links in messages from purported online tax preparation companies lost money, with 29% losing more than $2,500.
  • Fake tax messages claiming to be from tax authorities most commonly ask Americans for social security or tax ID numbers (65%), birth dates (52%), home addresses (44%), email addresses (54%), e-filing PINS (15%), and account passwords (14%) - signaling potential identity theft attempts.

SAN JOSE, Calif.: McAfee, a global leader in online protection, today released the results of its 2024 Tax Scams Study. The study surveyed 2,500 adults in the US to understand how online scams, including AI-powered messages and deepfake video or AI-generated audio, have impacted the traditional tax season turmoil.

The results show that 1 in 4 Americans (25%) has lost money to online tax scams. Of the people who clicked on fraudulent links from supposed tax services, 68% lost money. Among those, 29% lost more than $2,500, and 17% lost more than $10,000. Moreover, 76% lost money after clicking links in cryptocurrency tax-related messages, with 26% losing more than $2,500 and 16% losing more than $10,000.

McAfee's tax season research, and insights from McAfee Labs, point to the impact of deepfake technology to deceive Americans. AI-generated robocalls are becoming more frequent and regionally appropriate accents pose a new challenge. However, less than half (49%) of Americans feel confident in their ability to spot deepfake videos or recognize AI-generated audio, such as fake renditions of IRS agents. Alarmingly, nearly 1 in 3 (29%) say they wouldn't recognize this fraudulent content or weren't aware of its existence. Altogether, this combination of Americans’ scam-spotting uncertainty and the increasingly advanced scams being carried out by cybercrooks points to the need for consumer education and reliable safeguards against online tax scams.

McAfee's threat researchers also discovered a surge in imposter scams aimed at stealing personal information and money. Just last month, McAfee:

  • Discovered 146,000 tax-related malicious URLs, up 30% since December
  • Blocked more than a million attempts to engage with fraudulent tax sites
  • Identified fake TurboTax URLs as the most fraudulent websites used in phishing scams

McAfee urges consumers to remain vigilant when receiving tax-related messages. The most common phishing email scams identified by McAfee researchers involved those with PDF attachments claiming to be from the IRS related to tax refunds and statements.

"As tax season ramps up, so too does cybercriminal activity. What's new this year is the scale and sophistication of scams we're now seeing thanks to artificial intelligence. From AI-generated robocalls with regional accents to very realistic and convincing fake emails, websites, and scam texts, cybercrooks are utilizing all the AI tools available to them, and so too should consumers to stay safe," said Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer at McAfee.

“With less than half of people feeling confident about the tax filing process, scammers are counting on uncertain consumers clicking on unsafe links during the rush for refunds. We urge people to balance convenience with caution, practice good cyber hygiene, and use the latest in AI-powered online protection to keep their privacy, identity, and personal information safe to help ensure a scam-free tax season,” continued Grobman.

Tax Trepidations
With less than half of Americans (48%) feeling very confident about tax filing and most uncertain about identifying tax-related scams, tax season breeds anxiety. However, despite these concerns, many Americans do not take proactive measures to prevent online tax scams.

  • More than half (54%) of people do not feel confident they’d know if a tax-related text, email, or social media message was a scam, and nearly 1 in 3 people (30%) are not confident they could tell the difference between a fake and a real tax preparation service.
  • Just 42% of people say they protect their identity and personal information during tax filing season by never clicking on any links or opening attachments from unknown senders or responding to texts / calls from unknown sources. Only 1 of 3 (33%) use two-factor authentication for their accounts.

Taxing Tales of Scam Sagas
In today’s AI-powered digital landscape, cybercrooks are using increasingly sophisticated tactics to trick unsuspecting taxpayers. From messages impersonating tax authorities to deceptive promises of tax refunds, and beyond, online tax scams are pervasive.

  • One quarter (25%) of Americans have lost money to an online tax scam.
  • Nearly 2 of 5 (37%) of Americans have received a fake message that stated it was from the IRS or a state tax authority. Of these people, 70% experienced the sender of the message asking for personal information such as a social security or tax ID number (65%), birth date (52%) or home address (44%).
  • Of those who clicked on links in messages from supposed tax software companies, nearly 7 out of 10 (68%) lost money. Nearly half (47%) lost more than $500, while 29% lost more than $2,500, and 17% lost more than $10,000.

Steps for Protecting Yourself from Tax Scams

  • Be suspicious of emails and phone calls claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS typically contacts people by mail, not email.
  • Never give out personal information on the phone. The IRS will never call to ask for personal information over the phone, and no government agency will ever ask you for money over the phone.
  • Be proactive. Monitor your credit report for unusual activity, maintain good cyber hygiene by keeping your privacy settings tight and passwords unique and strong, and make sure you have reliable online protection for your personal information.
  • Go straight to the source. Verify all websites and emails, even when it looks like they come from a trusted tax consultant or partner; go straight to the source instead of clicking on links in emails.
  • Use AI to beat AI. From blocking dangerous links on text messages, social media, or web browsers, customers across all platforms can take advantage of the AI-driven technology behind McAfee Scam Protection to engage with text messages, read emails, and browse the web peacefully and securely.
  • Monitor your credit and identity and get identity theft protection. Keeping a close eye on your credit report and staying informed about any potential compromises to your personal information can help prevent tax fraud. If you do fall victim to identity theft, having identity theft protection in place can offer substantial relief, both financially and in terms of facilitating a faster recovery.

About McAfee
McAfee Corp. is a global leader in online protection for consumers. Focused on protecting people, not just devices, McAfee’s consumer solutions adapt to users’ needs in an always online world, empowering them to live securely through integrated, intuitive solutions that protect their families, communities, and businesses with the right security at the right moment. For more information, please visit https://www.mcafee.com

* Source: McAfee Labs data

Fonte: Business Wire

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