Hackers are masters of social engineering, making tax season a prime target for cybercriminals as large quantities of sensitive personal and financial data are available online. These criminals prey on individuals in an attempt to steal information that can ultimately result in identity theft, fraudulent tax filings and even cashed tax refunds.
According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Federal Trade Commission received approximately 500,000 complaints in 2015, 45% of which were tax related. The majority of Americans file their taxes electronically. Because tax season offers increased opportunities to have your personal data exposed, safeguarding your information is of the utmost importance. Below are tricks to avoid and suggestions to protect your sensitive data this tax season.
Tax Season Tricks
- Phishing Scams– Be aware of unsolicited emails, texts and social media posts designed to get you to click on a link or respond to a request for information. Do not click on embedded links, rather type IRS.gov into your browser to ensure you are accessing the authentic IRS website.
- Imposter IRS Agents– Never respond by email or phone to a request for payment by the IRS as the agency does not demand payment without having first sent written notice nor would they demand a credit/debit card payment by phone. If you do receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, you can forward it to phishing.gov and then delete it from your inbox.
- Fraudulent Tax Preparers– You, the taxpayer, are ultimately responsible for all taxes associated with your return even if you enlist the help of a tax preparer. Ensure your tax preparer is reputable. Seek a preparer who requests receipts and asks specific questions regarding various expenses and deductions, and signs the return, providing you with a copy. Avoid preparers boasting that they obtain larger refunds, those who base their fees on a percentage of the refund, or a tax preparer with little or no experience.
Best Practice Tips
- Create an IP Pin on IRS.gov. An IP Pin is a six-digit number assigned to eligible tax payers that helps prevent the misuse of their Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns.
- Any sensitive or identifying information should be encrypted if shared electronically. If you use an outside tax professional, ensure they also use encryption while sharing your personal data.
- Store your electronic tax files securely by utilizing a strong password to protect the data. If you do engage a tax preparer, inquire about their security measures. For example, ask if their business has checked for malware issues.
- Only share personal information over a secure, password protected network. Free public Wi-Fi and unsecured wireless networks are easy targets for cybercriminals.
- The sooner you file, the better. This prevents criminals from filing a fraudulent tax return with your Social Security number and claiming your refund.
- File your tax returns on secure https sites only.
COMPASS strives to shift the world’s data to be safe and secure not only during tax season, but throughout the year. Please feel free to contact us at email@example.com or 667-401-5108 to discuss your unique cyber security needs.