Scammers exploit tax season anxiety with AI tools

25% of Americans has lost money to online tax scams, according to McAfee.

online tax scams concerns

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.

Cybercriminals embrace AI tools for attacks

McAfee’s research points to the impact of deepfake technology in deceiving Americans. AI-generated robocalls are becoming more frequent, and regionally appropriate accents pose a new challenge.

However, 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, 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 cybercriminals points to the need for consumer education and reliable safeguards against online tax 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, cybercriminals are utilizing all the AI tools available to them, and so too should consumers to stay safe,” said Steve Grobman, CTO 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.

Online tax scams on the rise

With 48% of Americans 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.

54% of people do not feel confident they’d know if a tax-related text, email, or social media message was a scam, and 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 33% use two-factor authentication for their accounts.

From messages impersonating tax authorities to deceptive promises of tax refunds, and beyond, online tax scams are pervasive.

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%).

Don't miss