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The second annual National Tax Security Awareness Week happened in late November 2017. This event is part of the Security Summit, part of an ongoing collaborative effort to combat tax-related identity theft. The IRS, state tax agencies, the tax industry, and groups came together to encourage people to protect their tax data and identities.
Criminals are always working hard to obtain people’s personal data. With the number of data breaches at record levels, these are issues that pose a threat to individuals and businesses. And their new target – taxes and tax returns. Here are a few simple steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves from cybercriminals.
- Keep personal data safe. Be vigilant. While taxpayers are shopping, criminals are shopping for sensitive data. They are looking for credit card information, financial accounts, and of course Social Security numbers. Use strong, unique passwords for each online account and avoid carrying a Social Security card. Don’t do your holiday shopping on an unsecured Wi-Fi network in public locations.
- Take steps to protect data after a breach. Using credit monitoring services, putting a freeze on accounts and resetting passwords will help after your information has been stolen.
- Avoid phishing emails by data thieves. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls, and texts from thieves. NEVER click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious email addresses. Remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate spontaneous contact by email or phone. They will not request personal or financial information that way either.
- Avoid the W-2 scam. Employers can take steps to protect their employees’ data from the growing W-2 email scam. Employers and payroll offices should educate employees about how to recognize an email from a thief trying to gain access to sensitive employee data, so they do not respond to these scam emails.
- Beware of scams against employers. Just like individuals, businesses may have their identities stolen. Small businesses and large businesses alike should protect their employer identification numbers. For 2018, the IRS is also asking that employers provide additional information to help verify the legitimacy of their tax return. Such information includes filing history, payment history, and parent company information. In the case of a sole proprietorship, the IRS might ask for a driver’s license number.
Taking steps to protect will make your life much more financially simple than cleaning up the mess these criminals can create.