This year marks the 5th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week-a collaboration by the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry. The IRS and the Security Summit partners have issued warnings to all taxpayers and tax professionals to beware of scams and identity theft schemes by criminals taking advantage of the combination of holiday shopping, the approaching tax season and coronavirus concerns. The 5th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week coincided with Cyber Monday, the traditional start of the online holiday shopping season.
The following are a few basic steps which taxpayers and tax professionals should remember during the holidays and as the 2021 tax season approaches:
- use an updated security software for computers and mobile phones;
- the purchased anti-virus software must have a feature to stop malware and a firewall that can prevent intrusions;
- don’t open links or attachments on suspicious emails because this year, fraud scams related to COVID-19 and the Economic Impact Payment are common;
- use strong and unique passwords for online accounts;
- use multi-factor authentication whenever possible which prevents thieves from easily hacking accounts;
- shop at sites where the web address begins with “https” and look for the “padlock” icon in the browser window;
- don’t shop on unsecured public Wi-Fi in places like a mall;
- secure home Wi-Fis with a password;
- back up files on computers and mobile phones; and
- consider creating a virtual private network to securely connect to your workplace if working from home.
In addition, taxpayers can check out security recommendations for their specific mobile phone by reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s Smartphone Security Checker. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued warnings about fraud and scams related to COVID-19 schemes, anti-body testing, healthcare fraud, cryptocurrency fraud and others. COVID-related fraud complaints can be filed at the National Center for Disaster Fraud. Moreover, the Federal Trade Commission also has issued alerts about fraudulent emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control or the World Health Organization. Taxpayers can keep atop the latest scam information and report COVID-related scams at www.FTC.gov/coronavirus.