Identity Theft

McAfee unveiled the results of its 2024 Tax Scams Study

With less than a week left until Tax Day, as Americans rush to file and eagerly await refunds, McAfee’s research uncovers the state-by-state impact of tax-related cyberscams.

  • States with the highest percentage of people who’ve received a fraudulent message about their tax refund, containing a malicious link to the supposed refund or statement, are: Texas (68%), New York (62%), California (50%), Alaska (44%), and Arkansas (36%).
  • McAfee Labs data* reveals the Top 5 markets for malware by volume: 1) Chicago, 2) Houston, 3) New York, 4) Denver, and 5) Seattle.
  • Top 5 states where people have both high confidence in their ability to spot scams and high rates of falling victim to scams are: 1) Texas, 2) New York, 3) Colorado, 4) Florida, and 5) Alaska.

McAfee, a global leader in online protection, today unveiled the results of its 2024 Tax Scams Study. The survey, conducted by research firm 3Gem, surveyed 2,500 adults in the United States, including 50 or more participants in each state, to understand how tax-related online scams, including AI-powered messages and deepfake video or AI-generated audio, affect Americans in all 50 states.

The results highlight, among other things, differences in peoples’ likelihood to click on fraudulent messages from senders claiming to offer information about refunds, or posing as tax prep services or tax authorities, state by state. This trend is likely to be especially evident as the tax filing deadline approaches, with early filers anticipating refunds and tax procrastinators actively seeking tax preparation services to expedite their filing process.

While residents of some states are not quick to click on messages that could be from scammers, others are more susceptible to clicking on tempting, fraudulent links. The regional disparities shed light on where temptation may lead to financial or identity theft peril.

McAfee’s study also reveals that 1 in 4 Americans (25%) have lost money to online tax scams, with the average loss to email or text message scams coming in at a staggering $8,199, proving the stakes are high this tax season.

The Top 5 Refund Clicking Capitals – the states where the highest percentage of people who received a fraudulent email or text message about “your tax refund” or “tax refund e-statement” also clicked on a scam link to a fake refund or statement – are:

  1. Alabama, Colorado, New York (tie): 94%
  2. Georgia: 92%
  3. Rhode Island: 91%
  4. Arkansas, West Virginia (tie): 89%
  5. Florida, Iowa, Texas (tie): 88%

Additionally, the Top 5 Tax Preparation Clicking Capitals – states where the highest percentage of people have clicked on a scam link in a fraudulent message from someone purporting to be a tax preparation software company – are:

  1. West Virginia: 88%
  2. Texas: 87%
  3. Colorado: 74%
  4. New York: 71%
  5. Massachusetts, Idaho (tie): 67%

“As we get closer to Tax Day, some taxpayers are likely feeling the pressure and stress of looming deadlines. Scammers are actively capitalizing on these heightened emotions, luring victims with the promise of an easier way to file, a faster refund, or an urgent need to provide information,” said Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer at McAfee. “On top of this, AI-generated fake tax websites and robocalls are increasingly realistic, even including features like regionally appropriate accents and speech patterns, leading consumers to trust scammers and in many cases provide them with personal information or fall for their scam.”

Some states are magnets for tax scam tries.

From coast to coast, there are substantial differences in the number of attempts by scammers to trick people into giving up sensitive personal and financial information. The lists below spotlight the nuanced challenges that residents of different states face in safeguarding themselves against tax season cybercrooks.

Top 5 Tax Refund Swindle Centers
States with the highest percentage of people who say they’ve received a fraudulent message about “your tax refund” or “tax refund e-statement,” containing a link to the supposed refund or statement.

  1. Texas: 68%
  2. New York: 62%
  3. California: 50%
  4. Alaska: 44%
  5. Arkansas: 36%

Top 5 IRS Impersonation Epicenters
States with the highest percentage of people who’ve received a fraudulent message that stated it was from the IRS or a state tax authority.

  1. Texas: 74%
  2. New York: 70%
  3. California, Alaska (tie): 62%
  4. Colorado: 56%
  5. Arkansas, Georgia (tie): 52%

In certain states, Deepfake Detective residents are overly confident in their ability to detect scams.

People in some states have high levels of confidence in their ability to spot online tax scams, while others struggle to discern what’s real and what’s fake in a time of increasingly realistic trickery. However, confidence doesn’t guarantee immunity to scams; sometimes, it’s misplaced. These lists provide insight into states where residents excel in spotting tax scams effectively, as well as those facing challenges in this area – all of whom may benefit from additional awareness and education.

Top 5 Most Confident Deepfake Spotters
States with the highest percentage of residents who say they are confident they could spot a deepfake video or AI-generated audio, with a synthetic version of an IRS agent or other tax authority.

  1. Texas, Alaska (tie): 78%
  2. New York: 70%
  3. Louisiana, Florida (tie): 62%
  4. West Virginia, Rhode Island, Montana, Illinois (tie): 60%
  5. Wyoming, North Carolina, Idaho (tie): 56%

Top 5 Deepfake Spotting Doubters
States with the highest percentage of residents who say they likely could not spot a deepfake video or AI-generated audio, with a synthetic version of an IRS agent or other tax authority.

  1. Vermont: 72%
  2. South Dakota: 66%
  3. New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana (tie): 62%
  4. New Mexico: 60%
  5. Wisconsin, Utah, Missouri, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Kentucky, Delaware (tie): 58%

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