National Tax Security Awareness Week
The IRS Security Summit sponsors this week each year. Security Summit professionals warned about increased risks during the coming months. Fraudsters continue to trick people into sharing financial information. The scammers may use email, text messages or online methods to attempt to gain information, file tax returns and steal refunds.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig noted, "The nation's tax community has successfully joined forces to protect taxpayers through the Security Summit effort, but we need help in this continuing battle. Taxpayers and tax professionals are the first line of defense against scammers looking for refunds. We are entering a sensitive holiday and tax period and we urge people to protect their personal information and avoid problems at tax time."
The focus of the educational materials for Tax Security Awareness Week will be to explain schemes connected with COVID, stimulus payments and tax refunds. There will be additional efforts to provide information for young individuals and older Americans.
The Security Summit partners have uploaded several YouTube videos. Individuals may access the YouTube videos on "Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer and Phone" or "Security Measures Help Protect Against Tax-Related Identity Theft."
The National Tax Security Awareness Week schedule includes tips for five days.
- Cyber Monday — Individuals should be aware of methods to protect data. All computers and phones should have security software that updates daily. You should understand phishing scams, especially those connected with COVID-19 or Economic Impact Payments. Use strong and unique passwords and two-factor authentication if possible. When using a financial website, check to see that the web address starts with "https" and is using appropriate security.
- Giving Tuesday — Many nonprofits highlight the opportunity to make gifts on November 30, also known as Giving Tuesday. However, taxpayers need to be careful to avoid being duped by fake charities. Do not let callers purportedly from a charity pressure you into giving an immediate donation. Ask a caller for the name and website of the nonprofit, go to the website and confirm the mailing address. Make gifts by check or credit card, not by gift card or wiring funds. Be sure to keep your records for donations.
- Tax Professionals — Identity thieves continue to ramp up attacks on tax professionals. CPAs and other tax advisors should use two-factor authentication for software accounts available to clients. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you are working remotely. Tax professionals are required to have a written data security plan. It is also helpful to create a data theft recovery plan. The IRS website has a helpful "Taxes-Security-Together" checklist for professional advisors.
- Digital Signatures — The IRS has begun to accept a number of digital signatures. Tax professionals may use their Tax Pro Account to create Power of Attorney and Tax Information Authorization requests. Taxpayers with an online account may have the ability to connect with their tax professional.
- Business Safeguards — Most cyber-attacks are against businesses with fewer than 100 staff. Small businesses should be aware of good security practices. Avoid Form W-2 scams that attempt to steal your employees' income information. If you experience an identity theft, you should file Business Identity Theft Affidavit — Form 14039-B.