‘Tis the season to think about how you can give to family, friends, and charities, but you also have to think about how to safeguard your financial information from those who may not be as charitable. This year, there’s a heightened need for security as fraudsters seek to use the coronavirus (COVID-19) to scam both taxpayers and tax preparers. Unfortunately, there are thousands of variations of COVID-related scams, including many related to the economic stimulus payment by the IRS.
To remind people about important steps they can take to protect themselves and their tax information, The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), TurboTax, state tax agencies, and other tax industry partners have announced the launch of this year’s National Tax Security Awareness Week.
The week, which takes place between November 30 and December 4, will feature a series of educational materials to help protect individuals, businesses, and tax pros from identity theft.
National Tax Security Awareness Week features basic security guidance for those most at-risk: individual taxpayers, business taxpayers, and tax professionals.
Here are highlights of National Tax Security Week and the security measures to keep in mind as the holiday and tax season approaches:
Day 1: Cyber Monday: Protect personal and financial information online
The IRS and the Security Summit partners remind people to take these basic steps:
- Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated.
- Avoid phishing scams, especially related to COVID-19 or Economic Impact Payments.
- Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
- Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Shop only secure websites; Look for the “https” in web addresses and the padlock icon; avoid shopping on unsecured and public Wi-Fi in places like shopping malls.
Day 2: Use multi-factor authentication
Remember to use multi-factor authentication options being offered by tax software providers:
- All tax software providers are offering multi-factor authentication options on products for both taxpayers and tax professionals.
- Multi-factor authentication protects online accounts by requiring a second verification code in addition to your credentials (username and password.) This second feature may be a code sent to your mobile phone, for example.
- Multi-factor authentication provides a critical layer of protection for your online accounts.
Day 3 – Get an Identity Protection PIN
Starting in January, taxpayers who can verify their identities may now opt into the IRS IP PIN program. Here’s what you need to know:
- The Identity Protection PIN or IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to you and the IRS. It provides another layer of protection for taxpayers’ Social Security numbers on tax returns.
- Use the Get An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) tool at IRS.gov/ippin to see if the IP PIN is right for you and to immediately get an IP PIN.
- Never share your IP PIN with anyone but your trusted tax provider.
Day 4 – Businesses at risk for identity theft
Most cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Here’s are some details:
- Learn about best security practices for small businesses.
- IRS protective masking of sensitive information on business transcripts starts December 13.
- A Business Identity Theft Affidavit – Form 14039-B – is now available for all businesses to report theft to the IRS.
- Beware of various scams, especially the W-2 scam that attempts to steal employee income information.
- Check out the “Business” section on IRS’ Identity Theft Central at IRS.gov/identifytheft.
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.
- Use multi-factor authentication to protect tax software accounts.
- Create a Virtual Private Network if working remotely.
- Create a written data security plan as required by law.
- Know about phishing and phone scams, especially related to fake clients, COVID-19, and Economic Impact Payments.
- Create data security and data theft recovery plans.
We’ve Got You Covered
See more tips throughout National Tax Security Awareness Week on how to secure your important information and learn more about how TurboTax works hard to safeguard your information on our TurboTax Security page.