The IRS, state tax administrators and their partners in the private-sector tax industry have launched a new campaign to encourage people to protect their personal and financial data. The “Taxes. Security. Together.” campaign reminds us of steps we can all take to protect ourselves from identity theft. These include:
- Use security software to protect your computer. This includes not only having a firewall and anti-virus protection, but also updating whenever there’s a new version. Consider encrypting sensitive information that resides on your computer. Remember to use strong passwords and use different passwords for different applications so that if one application is compromised, it doesn’t give a thief access to your other confidential information.
- Beware of phishing emails and phone scams. Clever criminals pose as trusted organizations that you recognize in order to send you spam emails, calls or texts. Their email may ask you to update a bank account or tax software account by providing a link to a fake website designed to steal your login information. They may call posing as the IRS threatening you with jail or lawsuits unless you make an immediate payment. Bogus emails may include an attachment which, if you open it, can infect your machine and enable a thief to access your sensitive files or track your keystrokes.
- Protect personal information. Don’t carry your Social Security number with you. Properly dispose of confidential information such as old tax returns by shredding them before throwing them away. Check your credit reports and Social Security account at least once each year to ensure no one is using your good credit rating or abusing your reputation. Be very careful what you share on social media – the more public information thieves have about you, the more they can use against you.
The tax software industry is working with the IRS and states to help identify fraudulent returns. New standards will be instituted in the 2016 tax filing season for logging into all tax software products such as minimum password requirements, new security questions, and standard lockout features.
IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers provides more information, along with www.irs.gov/taxessecuritytogether.