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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

'Ransomware' latest scam to worry about for tax season

Ransomware can freeze your tax preparer's devices and hold it ransom.

TOWNSHIP OF SYLVANIA, Sylvania — It's that time of year again, as tax season is right around the corner.

Experts are warning against a slew of familiar scams designed to steal your information and possibly your refunds. But, they are also concerned about a new digital threat.

"Ransomware is software that freezes your computer," Better Business Bureau NW Ohio president Dick Eppstein said.

Ransomware is the latest scam experts are warning consumers against this tax season. They say that even agencies like the FBI can't crack devices infected with it.

"You're surfing the internet and you open some e-mail and all of a sudden your computer goes blank," Eppstein said. "And it tells you it's holding your computer for ransom but they can do this with your tax preparer."

Prevention is key to protecting against this new threat. Epstein said to make sure you have a back-up drive for your computer. If you're doing your taxes yourself, do not click on unfamiliar e-mails or links and install the latest software updates for your devices.

Familiar phony phone calls and emails claiming to be the IRS are still a threat, too.

"Don't trust caller ID," Eppstein warned. "If you look on your phone and it says IRS or treasury or auditor or anything like that don't believe it because the con artists can spoof anything they want."

Epstein said the IRS will only reach out to you through snail mail, so don't be fooled by phone calls or e-mails.

Over three billion dollars was lost last year to tax scams. But, Epstein said the IRS is doing more to protect against these dangers on the federal, state and local levels.

The best defense is to file your taxes early. The IRS will reject a return if it has already received one with your social security number.

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