Security Summit marks 4th National Tax Security Awareness Week

Written on Nov 25, 2019

The IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry next week will hold their 4th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week.

The event features a week of education to help protect taxpayers and tax pros against identity theft; a social media push via Twitter and Instagram with @IRSnews and #TaxSecurity, including a Twitter chat on Dec. 5; and more than 25 events across the country.

Also new is a partner toolkit that features ready-to-use communication products that organizations and stakeholders can use to help raise awareness among clients, customers and employees. The toolkit offers information to share, including drop-in articles and email content for sharing and social media posts. It can be used both during the awareness week and during the 2020 filing season.

As part of the effort, the IRS and Summit partners created new YouTube videos on security steps for taxpayers. The videos can be viewed or downloaded at Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer and Phone and Avoid Phishing Emails.

The IRS also updated Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, which businesses can share with their employees and customers while tax professionals can share with clients.

December’s National Tax Security Awareness Week features five days of basic security guidance for those most at-risk: individual taxpayers, business taxpayers and tax professionals. Highlights include:

Day 1: Protect personal and financial information online

The IRS and Security Summit remind people to take these basic steps:

  • Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated
  • Protect personal information; don’t hand it out to just anyone
  • Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible
  • Shop only secure websites; Look for the “https” in web addresses; avoid shopping on unsecured and public Wi-Fi in places like shopping malls
  • Routinely back up files on computers and mobile phones

Day 2: Learn to recognize phishing emails and phone scams

Know that email scams often:

  • Pose as companies people know and trust
  • Tell an urgent story to trick victims into opening link or attachment

Watch out for scam phone calls, too. Remember:

  • The IRS does not call demanding payment with threats of jail or lawsuit
  • The IRS does not demand payment via gift or debit cards. The IRS does not accept tax payments by iTunes cards
  • The IRS does not send unsolicited emails about refunds or payments, requesting either login credentials, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information

Day 3 – Create strong passwords to protect online accounts

The password standards have changed. Here are some simple guidelines:

  • Use long phrases combined with characters and numbers. For example: SomethingOneCanRemember@30
  • Use a different password for each account; don’t use an email address if that’s an option and use a password manager
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever it’s offered, for example on email accounts, financial accounts and social media accounts

Day 4 – Recognize clues of identity theft

A business taxpayer may be an identity theft victim if:

  • An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate is already on file with the IRS
  • Routine extensions to file requests are rejected
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or an IRS notice is received
  • Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the IRS, which can be an indicator an identity thief has changed the address

Day 5 – Tax professionals should review their safeguards 

The IRS and the Summit partners urge tax pros to review the Taxes-Security-Together Checklist, including:

  • Deploy basic security measures
  • Create a written data security plan as required by law
  • Know about phishing and phone scams
  • Recognize the signs of client data theft
  • Create a data theft recovery plan

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