While it may be better known as “Cyber Monday”, today also marks the start of the second annual National Tax Security Awareness Week (November 27 to December 1). The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry are hosting it in advance of the 2018 tax filing season to encourage both individual and business taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities from cybercriminals.
According to the IRS’ news release announcing the event, during National Tax Security Awareness Week, “people will learn about the basic steps necessary to protect themselves and their tax data online, such as using security software, strong passwords and data encryption. They will learn what steps they should take if they are a data breach victim, such as placing a freeze on their credit accounts and the signs of tax-related identity theft.
“They will learn how cybercriminals use phishing emails to bait them into disclosing information. Employers will be warned about the dangerous W-2 scam that has made identity theft victims of thousands of employees. Finally, Summit partners will remind small businesses that they, too, are subject to identity theft and should take steps to protect themselves.
“There are three key steps the Summit partners urge people to take to protect tax and financial information:
Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and will automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers. Use strong passwords.
Protect personal data. Use strong, unique passwords for each online account. Don’t routinely carry Social Security cards, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.
In 2015, the then-IRS Commissioner convened a “Security Summit” involving public and private tax administration leaders to join forces in their fight against tax-related identity theft. National Tax Security Awareness Week is the latest effort by the Security Summit Partners to raise awareness about tax-related identity theft and ways to reduce the risk. Since 2015, they have released several dozen tips and announcements about cybersecurity, identity theft and tax security. A useful index of these documents is located on the IRS’ website.
Stay tuned for more updates.