Recognizing the growing problem of identity theft, the Internal Revenue Service issued Publication 4524 (revised September 2015) to provide taxpayers with ways to keep their financial and personal data safe. You may want to share these suggestions with your clients.
The IRS offered advice in three areas. In the first section, “Keep Your Computer Secure,” the IRS suggested that taxpayers: use security software that updates automatically; keep personal information private and out of plain view; investigate companies with whom they’re having contact; provide personal information only to encrypted websites; use strong passwords; and make sure to back up files.
In the second section, “Avoid Phishing and Malware,” the IRS recommended five steps: 1) avoid emails that purport to come from known companies or agencies and instead, visit their official websites; 2) be wary of attachments and only open those from known recipients; 3) download software from known websites; 4) use pop-up blockers; and 5) speak with family members about safe computing.
In its third section, “Protect Personal Information,” the IRS advised that taxpayers refrain from carrying social security cards and limit the amount of personal information that’s shared. Keeping tax records in a safe place and shredding tax documents add additional measures of protection. The IRS also reminded taxpayers to be on the watch for IRS impersonators and to forward IRS-related scam emails to the IRS itself. Finally, taxpayers should consistently review bank records, Social Security Administration documents and credit card statements.