McAfee Research Reveals Tax Troubles: 1 in 4 Americans Fall Victim to Online Tax Scams

In February alone, McAfee thwarted over one million attempts to interact with malicious URLs related to taxes, as the tax filing deadline looms closer and a significant portion of consumers (54%) grapple with distinguishing between scam and legitimate communications.

Alarmingly, less than half (49%) of Americans express confidence in their ability to discern deepfake videos or AI-generated audio featuring counterfeit IRS agents or tax authorities.

A staggering 68% of individuals who clicked on links within messages purportedly from online tax preparation companies fell victim to financial losses, with 29% reporting losses exceeding $2,500.

These fraudulent tax messages, posing as tax authorities, primarily request sensitive information from Americans, such as social security or tax ID numbers (65%), birth dates (52%), home addresses (44%), email addresses (54%), e-filing PINS (15%), and account passwords (14%). These requests suggest potential identity theft endeavors.

McAfee, a prominent global player in online security, has released its 2024 Tax Scams Study, based on a survey of 2,500 adults in the US. The study sheds light on the impact of online scams during the tax season, including those utilizing AI-powered messages and deepfake technology.

Key findings from the study reveal that 1 in 4 Americans (25%) has fallen victim to online tax scams, resulting in financial losses. Of those who clicked on fraudulent links posing as tax services, a staggering 68% experienced monetary losses. Among them, 29% lost over $2,500, and 17% lost more than $10,000. Additionally, 76% incurred losses from clicking links in cryptocurrency tax-related messages, with 26% losing over $2,500 and 16% over $10,000.

McAfee’s research highlights the growing threat of deepfake technology in deceiving individuals, with AI-generated robocalls becoming more prevalent. Furthermore, the study reveals that less than half (49%) of Americans feel confident in identifying deepfake videos or AI-generated audio, such as counterfeit IRS agent communications. Alarmingly, nearly 1 in 3 individuals (29%) either wouldn’t recognize such fraudulent content or were unaware of its existence. This underscores the importance of consumer education and robust safeguards against online tax scams.

McAfee’s threat researchers have observed a surge in imposter scams aimed at stealing personal information and funds. In the past month alone, McAfee identified 146,000 tax-related malicious URLs, marking a 30% increase since December. Additionally, the company blocked over a million attempts to engage with fraudulent tax sites, with fake TurboTax URLs being the most commonly used in phishing scams.

Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer at McAfee, emphasizes the need for vigilance during tax season, especially amidst the proliferation of sophisticated scams facilitated by AI technology. He advises consumers to balance convenience with caution, practice good cyber hygiene, and utilize AI-powered online protection to safeguard their privacy, identity, and personal information.

Despite widespread concerns about tax-related scams, the study reveals that many Americans do not take proactive measures to protect themselves. Over half (54%) lack confidence in identifying scam messages, and 30% are unsure about distinguishing between fake and genuine tax preparation services. Only 42% adopt protective measures such as avoiding unknown links or attachments, while just 33% use two-factor authentication for their accounts.

In light of these findings, McAfee offers actionable steps for safeguarding against tax scams, including being wary of unsolicited emails and phone calls claiming to be from the IRS, verifying websites and emails directly from trusted sources, and leveraging AI-driven technology for enhanced online protection.

By staying vigilant and adopting proactive measures, individuals can mitigate the risk of falling victim to online tax scams and safeguard their financial well-being during tax season.

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