Tax phishing scam targets TurboTax users

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Millions of taxpayers use computer software to prepare and e-file their returns each year. That makes them prime tax identity theft targets.

That’s the case for some users of TurboTax.

This filing season, they’ve received emails saying, “Recent activity on your turbotax account has led to temporarily deactivation of your account. This might lead to permanent deactivation if not addressed on time. Verify Your TurboTax. Thanks for choosing TurboTax!”

Tax scam clues

If you’re in the middle of filing your return and get this message, you might freak out a bit. Don’t. It’s fake.

Worse, it’s a phishing scam in which crooks are trying to get you to reveal your tax data, which they’ll then use to file a fraudulent return with a fake refund amount in your name.

The crooks offer clues in their message that it’s not really from TurboTax or its manufacturer Intuit.

Note the lower case “turbotax.” The company isn’t going to misspell its prime brand’s name.

The exclamation point also is suspicious. While Intuit is enthusiastic about TurboTax, that closing is a bit too upbeat for such a serious situation.

And not to go all grammar police, but there’s also the garbled syntax “temporarily deactivation” instead of “temporary.”

If only the scammers would be a bit more careful in putting together their schemes, they might not get busted so quickly. But then, they are crooks.

Report the tax scam

If you get this or a similar message, Intuit says don’t open any attachment in the email.

Don’t forward the email to anyone else.

Do, however, send a copy of it to so that the company can use it in its investigation of the phishing attempt.

Then delete the message and get back to work on your taxes using your real TurboTax program.

Expect to see more tax phishing

It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see similar phishing attempts invoking other tax software brands. The Internal Revenue Service says that these email schemes continue to be one of the top tax scams it sees every filing season.

“Criminals are constantly looking for new ways to trick you out of your personal financial information so be extremely cautious about opening strange emails,” says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS won’t send you an email about a tax bill or refund out of the blue. We urge taxpayers not to click on any unexpected emails claiming to be from the IRS.”

Ditto for unexpected emails from your tax software provider.

Take anti-scam steps

In addition to contacting the IRS and your tax software company directly about suspicious phishing emails, you also should subscribe to an anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date.

Make sure you have updated your web browser to one that includes anti-phishing security features. Also stay up to date on the latest releases and patches for your operating systems and critical programs.

And generally, be vigilant during filing season.

Do not respond to emails or text messages warning about problems with your taxes, especially when they ask for your account, password, banking or credit card information. Instead, go directly to the source, be it TurboTax or another company or the IRS.

If you do discover or suspect that your personal or tax information has been compromised, you can check your credit with free tools from myBankrate.

Stay on top of the wide world of taxes and tax scams by subscribing to Bankrate’s free Weekly Tax newsletter. And follow me on Twitter: @taxtweet.