Dallas, Texas — With the approach of the holidays and the upcoming tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the nations tax industry are promoting the 5th annual National Tax Security Awareness Week from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4 with tips on basic safeguards everyone should take.
The week-long initiative highlights simple steps taxpayers can do such as using antivirus software and strong passwords and points out common tactics used by identity thieves to target taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals. It will also focus on specific threats to businesses and to tax professionals, both of whom are increasingly plagued by criminals.
Clay Sanford, an IRS spokesman, said one of the most common ways cyber crooks steal your personal or work information is by simply asking for it. They may appear to be a trusted companypossibly posing as your bank or your favorite online retailer, Sanford warned. Be sure to examine emails carefully, and if you get these types of phishing emails on your phones or computers, dont open links or attachments.
Since forming the Security Summit partnership in 2015, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry have made significant inroads into tax-related identity theft. While the Summit partners continue to improve their internal defenses, more help is needed from taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals to better protect the data that identity thieves need to file fraudulent tax returns.
Increasing public awareness about peoples role in protecting their own data is a critical part of the Security Summit efforts. Here are a few basic steps everyone should remember during the holidays and as the 2021 tax season approaches:
Don’t forget to use security software for computers and mobile phones and keep it updated.
Make sure purchased anti-virus software has a feature to stop malware, and there is a firewall that can prevent intrusions.
Phishing scams like imposter emails, calls and texts — are the No. 1 way thieves steal personal data. Don’t open links or attachments on suspicious emails. This year, fraud scams related to COVID-19 and the Economic Impact Payment are common.
Use strong and unique passwords for online accounts. Use a phrase or series of words that can be easily remembered or use a password manager.
Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Many email providers and social media sites offer this feature. It helps prevents thieves from easily hacking accounts.
Shop at sites where the web address begins with “https” the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. Also, look for the padlock icon in the browser window.
Don’t shop on unsecured public Wi-Fi in places like a mall. Remember, thieves can eavesdrop.
At home, secure home Wi-Fis with a password. With more homes connected to the web, secured systems become more important, from wireless printers, wireless door locks to wireless thermometers. These can be access points for identity thieves.
Back up files on computers and mobile phones. A cloud service or an external hard drive can be used to copy information from computers or phones providing an important place to recover financial or tax data.
Working from home? Consider creating a virtual private network (VPN) to securely connect to your workplace.
See more information in IRS Publication 4457,
Safeguarding Taxpayer Data.