Reality of the Income Tax refund fake SMS
Every Taxpayer nightmare: To be the potential victim of a swindler hiding under the pretext of offering a tax refund via a legitimate-looking SMS. These “Income-tax refund fake SMS” have the potential to dent your bank account balance badly.
As the first deadline for IT return nears, so does the expanding landscape of cybercriminal rackets targeting the tax slab population with fraudulent acts. Their scam SMS purportedly coming from the Income-tax department asks users to submit a refund application. And, in case you are wondering these scamsters impersonate regional banks, then allow us to widen your statistics on it.
According to a combined investigation conducted by the CyberPeace Foundation and Autobot Infosec Private Ltd, fraudulent messages purportedly from national banks such as ICICI, State Bank of India, Axis Bank, HDFC and Punjab National Bank have been doing the rounds for over a few years now. These innocuous messages targeting major Banks are intended at extracting personal data and in turn trigger a host of other criminal acts, including banking frauds and data theft.
Twitter threads have been flooded with personal experiences, where people receive scam messages that appear authentic and tempting to click. One such incident is shared by a Twitter user Karthik, who received a personalized message claiming to remit an unclaimed overdue tax refund of Rs 34,259. While nothing seems to be suspect in such messages, what can catch your eye is the link attached with the message, which in this case was Bitly. It as observed and complained from people across India was created by a Russian domain.
While vigilant people like Karthik would report such frauds online and make others aware of the concern, there might be some who would fall prey to the tempting dose of tax-refund, click on the link and open a can of worms that would eventually attack their personal information and account.
Impact of Income-tax Refund Fake SMS Fraud
The phishing scam of Income Tax refund taking the SMS platform has affected almost every taxpayer, wavering on the uncertainty of whether or not to click on the link, which is always suspicious.
It is this increasing Income Tax refund fake SMS landscape adopted by fraudsters that have influenced the Income Tax department to release a cautionary statement via their Twitter handle stating-
Following the warning, the Income Tax Department also alerts the general public that in case a refund is due to them, the IT department would not send a link to their mobile number. Moreover, entering the credit card or debit card details on these sites should be avoided at any point, considering they can be a phishing scam waiting to steal your personal account information, only to incur losses.
This already thriving cybercriminal scope tool leaps during Covid-19 when the Income Tax department of India announced that it would immediately issue refunds of up to 5 lakhs. This motion was to help the taxpayers tide over the uncertain situations during the nationwide lockdown. However, there were many taxpayers whose outstanding tax demand from the previous year was also pending. This tax demand needed to be adjusted against the tax refund announced by the IT department. To consider this announcement and situation, the IT department had been sending out emails to these taxpayers to communicate with them about the tax refund adjustment and was asking them to respond to the emails sent out. The taxpayers had to respond via their income tax account on the IT e-filing website.
This situation was taken as a breeding ground for income tax scams, where fraudsters sent out similar messages, that seemed almost genuine. This tactic of scamsters to always work in a similar pattern to the government announcements to seem legitimate often misconstrues the taxpayers, and sometimes victimizes them of financial and data fraud.
How do you differentiate fake SMS?
Simple, to start with, the IT department of India would not send you a link, rather would suggest you visit their official website and enter your login details to process the necessary requirements. Moreover, it is recommended to never share your confidential information such as card details, account number, OTP, Aadhar number etc to anyone. Additionally look for shabby language, spelling errors, suspicious links and other slight changes from normal to identify fake from real.
To keep your cyber safety and security on priority, the Finlock app gives you protection in your hands. With its intelligent technology, it can easily detect such fraud SMS. And if there is any weblink disguised as an IT website, the Fraud detection app can detect that too and save you from falling for such scam tricks. Moreover, Finlock offers a cyber insurance cover of upto 5 lakh to cover any losses you might incur due to fraudulent activities.