You’ve no doubt heard about the rise in cybercrime and identity theft in the mainstream media in recent years. And we’ve certainly tried to address this important topic in our newsletters, blog posts and webinars. Unfortunately, the need for vigilance only continues to grow.
Identity thieves and fraudsters have taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of remote work, and the proliferation of digital transactions to create novel scams to steal money and personal information. With tax time right around the corner, it is worthwhile to take a few moments to ensure you are taking all the necessary steps to protect yourself.
HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR INFORMATION
The IRS Security Summit issues guidelines and recommendations for tax professionals, businesses, and individuals about how to best protect personal data from cyber threats. Here are some of the group’s key takeaways:
Use Multi-Factor Authentication
All tax software providers now offer multi-factor authentication options, which adds an additional level of security requiring confirmation from your personal email or mobile phone. Take advantage of multi-factor authentication on your other digital accounts wherever possible.
Request an IP PIN
The IP Pin is a six-digit number provided by the IRS and known only by the taxpayer and the IRS. It helps prevent the fraudulent filing of a tax return. Read more about how to get an IP Pin.
Avoid Spear Phishing Scams
Identity thieves continue to increase their sophistication and craft emails and text messages that appear to be credibly sent by a known or trusted source such as a bank, credit card company, the IRS, or even the head of your company. Be especially wary of messages that tell a story, usually are urgent in tone, trying to coax you to take an immediate action. And never open a link or any attachments from a suspicious email.
Pay Attention When Doing Your Taxes Online
Doing your own taxes? Here are some signs something might be amiss:
Software or actions take longer to process than usual
The computer cursor moves or changes numbers without you touching the mouse/keyboard
You are unexpectedly locked out of a network or computer
Be Cautious About Any IRS Correspondence You Did Not Initiate
Keep a careful record of what you do with the IRS online. This way you will know that something is not right if you receive something from the IRS that you did not initiate. For example, you could receive authentication letters or transcripts you did not request.
Set Up an ID.me Account When Using IRS.gov
ID.me is a technology provider used by the IRS to keep your personal data safe. Visit IRS.gov and go through the process to verify your identity.
Always Use Secure Portals to Upload Documents
It is critical you use secure portals when uploading documents for your tax provider. The IRS suggests transmitting files via Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). Most tax providers now share a simple link within a company email. Just click on the link and directly upload your documents to your personal tax preparer at the firm. Again, we can’t emphasize enough that if you are digitally transmitting documents, always use a secure portal.
Get Help Quickly
If you suspect your personal information has been compromised, be sure to act quickly. IdentityTheft.gov is a helpful website operated by the Federal Trade Commission that offers tips on how to address any compromised personal data.