As Americans across the U.S. prepare to file their tax returns and pay any money owing by Monday’s deadline, cybercriminals have been patiently awaiting their opportunity to steal from them.
Not only are tax forms like W-2s and 1040s “increasingly sought after on the dark web,” they are also readily available for purchase, Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer at Carbon Black, told FOX Business.
“Tax information has a wealth of information, enabling an attacker to carry out a multitude of financial crimes – from stealing tax refunds to conducting home equity loan fraud,” Kellermann said.
Criminals aren’t just stopping at selling your personal information, either. They are also including “how-to” guides for cashing in on that data.
The information on tax documents is particularly valuable because it can not only yield short-term results for a cybercriminal, but it could also lead to a lifetime of vulnerabilities for the victim, Kellermann noted.
So how much are criminals willing to cough up for your tax info? Here’s a look at what some items are selling for, as compiled by Carbon Black.
W-2s and 1040s: $1.04 to $52
Names, Social Security Numbers and birth dates: $0.19 to $62
How-to guide for cashing a victim’s return: $5 to $70
Forged W-2 form: $50+
Bank account credentials: $1 to $2,080 per account
For $1,000, a hacker can: Purchase access to a U.S.-based bank account, file a fake tax return, claim the IRS refund and cash out through a cryptocurrency exchange for a 100 percent-plus return on the investment.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig referred to the IRS as the “world’s largest data bank” during testimony before Congress this week, where he cited the need to update the agency’s infrastructure in order to better protect taxpayers’ information. Rettig said there are 1.4 billion breach attempts on IRS systems each year, including some “sophisticated” attempts carried out by nation states.
With an increasing focus on cybersecurity, tax-related identity theft cases reported to the Federal Trade Commission declined by 38 percent in 2018.
In order to better protect your information from criminals, Carbon Black recommends the following:
Use a bank account with multi-factor authentication for logins
Use a password manager, do not save passwords in your browser
File your taxes as soon as possible
Don’t give away personal information unless you have to
Never transfer money based on an email request without authenticating first