The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals to learn how to protect their online presence.

The IRS Security Summit wants you to know how to keep your identity safe, so the group is giving out tips during the fourth annual National Tax Security Awareness Week happening Dec. 2-6.

“While people are shopping online, identity thieves are trying to shoplift their sensitive information. As the holiday season and tax season approach, everyone should remember to take basic steps to protect themselves,” said Chuck Rettig, IRS Commissioner. “The Security Summit has made progress in fighting back against tax-related identity theft, but we need people to watch out for common scams that can put their financial and tax data at risk.”

Here are some of the steps the IRS says you can take to protect yourself from identity theft:

Protect personal and financial information online

  • 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

The IRS also joined with other agencies, including the tax industry, to create videos to teaching people how to protect their computers and phones, as well as how to avoid phishing emails.

To learn more about protecting your online presence, visit the IRS website.

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