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Tax scams: 6 ways to help protect yourself

March 20th, 2014 No comments

We’ve received reports that cybercriminals are at it again, luring unsuspecting taxpayers in the United States into handing over their personal information as they rush to file their taxes before the deadline.

Here are 6 ways to help protect yourself.

1.     Beware of all email, text, or social networking messages that appear to be from the IRS. Cybercriminals often send fraudulent messages meant to trick you into revealing your social security number, account numbers, or other personal information. They’ll even use the IRS logo. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or use any social media tools to request personal or financial information.
2.       Use technology to help detect scams. Scams that ask for personal or financial information are called “phishing scams.” Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, and other programs have anti-phishing protection built in. Read more about identity theft protection tools that can help you avoid tax scams.
3.       Check to see if you already have antivirus software. If a cybercriminal does fool you with a tax scam that involves downloading malware onto your computer, you might already be protected by your antivirus software. If your computer is running Windows 8, you have antivirus software built in. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. 
4.       Make sure the website uses secure technology. If you’re filing your taxes on the web, make sure that the web address begins with https, and check to see if a tiny locked padlock appears at the bottom right of the screen. For more information, see How do I know if I can trust a website and What is HTTPs?
5.       Think before you download tax apps. Download apps only from major app stores—the Windows Phone Store or Apple’s App Store, for example—and stick to popular apps with numerous reviews and comments.
6.       Be realistic. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. From companies that promise to file your taxes for free, to websites that claim you don’t have to pay income tax because it’s unconstitutional—keep an eye out for deliberately misleading statements.

Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Filing taxes? Beware of scams

February 26th, 2013 No comments

It’s tax season in the United States, which means it’s time for us to remind you about tax scams—especially email messages that appear to come from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or another legitimate organization.

These seemingly valid offers are designed to trick you into turning over your personal information or to click on links or attachments that will automatically download malicious software to your computer.

The most common tax scams we’ve seen include:

  • Fraudulent links to get your refund
  • Free tax preparation or tax preparation software
  • Promises to get you out of paying your taxes

To help avoid tax scams

Be careful when you click links or open attachments. If you need to go to the IRS website, use a bookmark or type the URL directly into your web browser. Read more about how the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information.

Use antivirus software. Download Microsoft Security Essentials at no cost for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. Windows Defender is an antivirus feature in Windows 8 that replaces Microsoft Security Essentials. 

Use email software with built-in spam filtering. SmartScreen technology helps reduce unwanted email. It’s built into Microsoft email programs (Outlook.com, Hotmail, Outlook, Exchange, Windows Mail, and Entourage) and is turned on by default.

Read more about security features in Outlook.com and Hotmail.

Get help with phishing scams, lottery fraud, and other types of scams


Watch out for prize scams

January 16th, 2013 No comments

We’ve seen an increase in scam email messages that promise recipients they have won some kind of prize or a lottery. These unsolicited messages will often claim that the prize is sponsored by Microsoft or another well-known company. They request personal information that cybercriminals can use for identity theft.

Do not respond to these fraudulent messages with personal information. There is no Microsoft Lottery.

For more information, see:

Watch out for prize scams

January 16th, 2013 No comments

We’ve seen an increase in scam email messages that promise recipients they have won some kind of prize or a lottery. These unsolicited messages will often claim that the prize is sponsored by Microsoft or another well-known company. They request personal information that cybercriminals can use for identity theft.

Do not respond to these fraudulent messages with personal information. There is no Microsoft Lottery.

For more information, see:

Fraud alert: Prize scams

July 17th, 2012 No comments

John writes: 

I received an email that said that I won a prize from Microsoft and I am concerned that others may fall for this scam. Can’t anything be done about these types of scams?

The Microsoft Lottery scam is a fraudulent email that claims that you have won a lottery, a prize, a sweepstakes, or another kind of award. The goal of this phishing scam is to convince you to send money to claim your award or to turn over personal information.

Learn more about scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently.

There is no Microsoft Lottery. If you receive an email like this, you can delete it or you can report it.

How to report an email scam

You can use Microsoft tools to report a suspected scam.

  • Internet Explorer. While you are on a suspicious site, click the gear icon and then point to Safety. Then click Report Unsafe Website and use the web page that is displayed to report the website.
  • Hotmail. If you receive a suspicious email message that asks for personal information, click the check box next to the message in your Hotmail inbox. Click Mark as and then point to Phishing scam.
  • Microsoft Office Outlook. Attach the suspicious email message to a new email message and forward it toreportphishing@antiphishing.org. To learn how to attach an email message to an email message, see Attach a file or other item to an email message.

You can also download the Microsoft Junk E-mail Reporting Add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook.