Avoiding a data breach on your taxes

The Internal Revenue Service is partnering with state tax agencies, the tax industry and groups across the country to host the second annual National Tax Security Awareness Week.

The goal is to encourage taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities.

The observance, part of the Security Summit ongoing collaborative to combat tax-related identity theft, begins Monday and coincides with two annual events when criminals are especially active — the online holiday shopping season and the 2018 tax filing season.

The number of data breaches has reached record levels, threatening individuals and businesses the IRS say.

The IRS is offering simple steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves.

This week, the the IRS will focus on key steps people can follow to protect their tax data:

• Keep personal data safe. Be vigilant with personal information. While taxpayers are shopping for gifts, criminals are shopping for sensitive data including credit cards, financial accounts, and Social Security numbers. Taxpayers should use strong, unique passwords for each online account and avoid routinely carrying a Social Security card. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi in public locations while holiday shopping.

• Avoid phishing emails by data thieves. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls, and texts from thieves. People should never click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious email addresses. Remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate spontaneous contact with taxpayers by email or phone to request personal or financial information.

• Take steps to protect data after a breach. There are specific things that data theft victims can do after a criminal steals their information. This includes using credit monitoring services, putting a freeze on accounts and resetting passwords.

• Avoid the W-2 scam. Employers can take steps to protect their employees’ data from the growing W-2 email scam. Employers and payroll offices should educate employees about how to recognize an email from a thief who wants to gain access to sensitive employee data so they do not respond to these scam emails.

• Beware of scams against employers. Just like individuals, businesses may have their identities stolen. Small businesses and large businesses alike should protect their employer identification numbers. For 2018, the IRS is also asking that employers provide additional information to help verify the legitimacy of their tax return. Such information includes filing history, payment history and parent company information. In the case of a sole proprietorship, the IRS might ask for a driver’s license number.

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