The Internal Revenue Service urges all tax return preparers to get off to a clean start this January and perform a security deep scan of their computer drives and devices. Already in 2016, the IRS is seeing multiple email phishing scams – some posing as the IRS – targeting tax preparers. These scams are designed to steal sensitive information – either the preparers’ passwords for IRS accounts or sensitive taxpayer data stored on computers.
The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. We all have a role to play.
The IRS recommends all tax return preparers take the following steps immediately:
- Ensure that you and your employees have robust security software that helps block malware and viruses and that it remains turn on and active at all times.
- Use the “deep scan” function to fully scour all computer drives and files for any malware or viruses. These bugs can hide in places that a “quick scan” does not search. Perform a deep scan periodically.
- Ensure that your security software updates automatically so that it is always up-to-date and on-guard against new and emerging malware and viruses.
- Review the security plan for your office and operations. If you do not have a security plan, review a checklist suggested by Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data.
- Educate your employees about the dangers of phishing malware, emails and other scams that could lead to malware/virus infections. One phishing email can result in all office computers being hacked for sensitive data.
Ensuring that your computer is free of malware/viruses will help prevent the spread of infections during the filing season when you are in contact with clients and others.
The IRS, states and tax industry have issued a series of Security Awareness Tax Tips for taxpayers. They also urge all tax preparers to share security awareness tips with taxpayers throughout the filing season. Preparers can print and share Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to help clients take additional steps to protect their personal, financial and tax data online and at home.
For more information about identity theft and what you can do to help combat it, visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.