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IRS Taxpayer Alert As Public Holidays Approach Tax Season: Beware of Scams, Protect Financial Information

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WASHINGTON (KTVZ) – At the start of a special week, the Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners on Monday warned taxpayers and tax practitioners to be wary of a dangerous combination of events that may increase their exposure to scams tax or identity theft.

The combination of the holiday shopping season, the upcoming tax season and the pandemic creates additional opportunities for criminals to steal sensitive personal or financial information. People need to be extra careful when shopping online or when checking emails and texts.

The IRS, state tax agencies, and the nation’s tax industry – working together on the Security Summit – today mark the start of the 6e Annual National Tax Safety Awareness Week with tips on basic guarantees everyone should take. These can help protect against identity theft as well as protect sensitive tax information that criminals can use to try to file false tax returns and obtain refunds.

“Don’t leave this the most wonderful time of year for identity thieves,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The approach of the holidays and tax season increases the risks for taxpayers and the opportunities for criminals. We urge people to be very careful with their personal and financial information during this time while shopping online or receiving suspicious emails or text messages Taking a few simple steps can prevent people from falling victim to identity theft and protect their sensitive personal information needed for tax returns and refunds.

Since 2015, IRS and Security Summit partners have taken important steps to protect the country’s taxpayers and tax professionals from tax identity theft. But advancements in this area have led identity thieves to evolve their tactics, trying to get sensitive information from taxpayers and tax professionals to help them prepare fraudulent tax returns. Taxpayers can help this fight by protecting their financial and tax information. Summit partners continue to highlight security measures as part of the “Taxes.Security.Ensemble” effort.

As part of this effort, National Tax Safety Awareness Week is designed to help share information with taxpayers and practitioners during this critical time. The special week includes special info graphics and social media efforts on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram via @IRSnews and #TaxSecurity.

Particular emphasis for this year on social media will focus on tax safety awareness on both younger and older Americans. Even if someone doesn’t file a tax return, their online interactions can lead crooks to obtain sensitive information and use it to try to get a refund.

10 key steps to protect sensitive information:

To help taxpayers and tax professionals, the Safety Summit offers 10 basic steps everyone should remember during the holidays and as tax season 2022 approaches:

  • Remember to use security software for computers, tablets and mobile phones and keep it up to date. Protect the electronic devices of family members, especially teens and young children.
  • Make sure that the anti-virus software for computers has a function to stop malware and that a firewall is activated to prevent intrusions.
  • Phishing scams – like impostor emails, calls and texts – are the number 1 way for thieves to steal personal data. Do not open links or attachments on suspicious emails. This year, fraudulent scams related to COVID-19, Economic Impact Payments and other tax law changes are common.
  • Use strong, unique passwords for online accounts. Use an easily remembered phrase or series of words, or use a password manager.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Many email providers and social networking sites offer this feature. This helps prevent thieves from easily hacking into accounts.
  • Buy from sites where the web address begins with “https” – the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. Also look for the “padlock” icon in the browser window.
  • Remember that thieves can spy.
  • At home, secure home Wi-Fi with a password. With more and more homes connected to the web, secure systems are becoming more important, from wireless printers to wireless door locks to wireless thermometers. These can be access points for identity thieves.
  • Back up files to computers and cell phones. A cloud service or an external hard drive can be used to copy information from computers or phones, which is an important place to retrieve financial or tax data.
  • Work from home? Consider setting up a virtual private network (VPN) to securely connect to your workplace.

Other common warning signs; additional places for information

The IRS and Summit partners continue to see identity thieves trying to look like government agencies and other members of the tax community by sending emails or texts about tax refunds, stimulus payments or other items. Remember, the IRS will not call or send unexpected texts or emails about things like refunds. More information on these common scams can be found at IRS Tax Tip: Common Tax Scams and Tips to Help Taxpayers Avoid Them.

The IRS and Security Summit partners share YouTube videos on taxpayer security measures. The videos can be viewed or downloaded at Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer and Phone and Here’s How to Avoid IRS SMS Scams.

Employers can also share publication 4524, Taxpayer Safety Awareness (.pdf), with their employees and clients, while tax professionals can share with their clients.

Additionally, Summit partners are reminding people that these security measures include cell phones – an area people can sometimes overlook. Thieves have become more adept at compromising cell phones. Phone users are also more likely to open a fraudulent email from their phone than from their computer.

Taxpayers can view the safety recommendations for their specific mobile phone by reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s Smartphone Safety Checker. Since phones are used for shopping and even doing taxes, remember to make sure phones and tablets are as secure as computers.

During the pandemic, many scams related to COVID-19 continue to occur. These could be attempts to obtain sensitive personal or financial information. The Federal Trade Commission has also issued alerts; consumers can stay on top of the latest scam information and report COVID-related scams.

The IRS, state tax agencies, the private sector tax industry, including tax professionals, work in partnership as the Security Summit to help protect taxpayers from identity theft and refund fraud. This is the first in a series of weeklong tips for raising awareness about identity theft. See IRS.gov/securitysummit for more details.


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