ANNAPOLIS, Md. (November 21, 2017) ― For the second year, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office – and the tax industry will host National Tax Security Awareness Week to encourage individual and business taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities in advance of the 2018 filing season.
Starting Monday, November 27, the focus will be on issues posing a threat to individuals and businesses and steps to protect taxpayers from cybercriminals. In recent years, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry – partners in the Security Summit – have enacted a series of defenses to combat tax-related identity theft.
“We are resolute in our commitment to protecting Marylanders’ financial information and the integrity of our tax system,” Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “Throughout the year, my employees work tirelessly to identify fraudulent returns from thieves trying to drain the state coffers and from cheating Maryland citizens.”
Throughout the country, Summit partners and other consumer, business and community groups will host more than 25 events to raise tax data awareness during the week. In Maryland, the Internal Revenue Service’s Stakeholder Liaison – including the Maryland Comptroller’s Office – and the Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals will take part in a forum from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 28, at the University of Phoenix, 8830 Stanford Boulevard, Room 128, in Columbia. Panelists will discuss ways to combat cyber thieves looking to trick people into disclosing sensitive information so they can file fraudulent tax returns.
The holiday season is an especially vulnerable time for online thievery as Marylanders do their holiday shopping and provide credit card and other personal information. Throughout the country, 145 million American have had their names, addresses and Social Security numbers stolen from a variety of locations.
The IRS and states have put many new defenses in place to help protect taxpayers from identity theft. The new IRS protections have worked well and some key indicators of identity theft on tax returns have dropped by around two-thirds since 2015. These protections are especially helpful if criminals only have names, addresses and Social Security numbers. However, the cybercriminals may try to obtain more specific financial details from taxpayers and tax professionals.
During the awareness week, taxpayers and tax professionals will learn:
- Basic steps to protect themselves and their tax data online, such as using security software, strong passwords and data encryption.
- What to do if they are a data breach victim, such as placing a freeze on their credit accounts and the signs of tax-related identity theft.
- How cybercriminals use phishing emails to bait them into disclosing information.
- The dangers W-2 Scam that has made identity theft victims of thousands of employees.
- Those small businesses also are subject to identity theft and should take steps to protect themselves.
The Summit partners will urge taxpayers to protect their tax and financial information by:
- Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as bank, credit card company and government organizations (including the IRS), and to not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Always using security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Making sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypting sensitive files such as tax records you store on your computer. Using strong passwords.
- Protecting personal data. Using strong unique passwords for each online account. Don’t routinely carry a Social Security card, and making sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like you do your cash; don’t leave it lying around.
For more information, visit irs.gov.