HARLINGEN, Texas – Federal agencies meet in Harlingen to bring awareness to scams and identity theft this holiday season.
Many of us may be looking to save a few extra dollars while shopping, however, thieves are waiting to take your money and your personal information.
For the fourth consecutive year, the IRS partners with the Small Business Administration and the better business bureau to discuss best practices to protect your identity while you shop during the holidays.
Last year alone, the IRS identified over 1.4 billion cyber-attacks on unsuspecting Americans and businesses.
Whether you’re shopping in store or online, experts ask that you do your best to protect your identity. Technology may have changed, but thieves are still thieves.
These are some of the recommendations laid out by the IRS during their 4th National Tax Security Awareness Week.
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, and
- 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.