With just over a month left before tax season kicks off, there is a heightened focus on data security.
IRS, state tax administrators & private sector have joined forces to launch the “Taxes. Security. Together.” campaign, which is designed to raise public awareness about online safety.
Each year, tax season becomes an opportunity for unscrupulous characters to prey on millions of unsuspecting, hard working individuals.
Thieves are getting more creative and are using more sophisticated methods to capture their share what has become a billion dollar industry.
Intially, scammers targeted those they viewed as most vulnerable, such as older Americans, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English.
These criminals have expanded their net and are now targeting virtually anyone. The actuality is that we all are at risk.
Along with the awareness campaign, the government and industry have taken steps to increase protection for filers from tax-related identity theft for the 2016 filing season.
The IRS, states and tax industry are urging the public to take active steps to protect themselves. The partners are encouraging people to:
- Use security software to protect computers. This includes a firewall and anti-virus protection. If tax returns or sensitive data are stored on the computers, encrypt the files. Use strong passwords.
- Beware of phishing emails and phone scams. A common way for identity thieves to steal names and Social Security numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information is to simply ask for it. Clever criminals pose as trusted organizations that you recognize and send spam emails, calls or texts. Their email may ask you to update a bank account or tax software account and provide a link that to a fake website that is designed solely to steal your logon information. They may call posing as the IRS threatening you with jail or lawsuits unless you make an immediate payment. They may provide an attachment which, if you download, will infect your machine and enable the thief to access sensitive files or track your key strokes.
- Protect personal information. Do not routinely carry your Social Security number. Properly dispose of old tax returns and other sensitive documents by shredding before trashing. Check your credit reports and Social Security Administration accounts at least annually to ensure no one is using your good credit or using your SSN for employment. Oversharing on social media also gives identity thieves even more personal details.
Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to report any suspicious communications allegedly from the IRS.
For more information on tax resolution services, visit: www.streamlinetaxresolution.com
Craig Thomas can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org