Scams that target digital, identity-based records of your clients represent more than just a financial threat. They can also jeopardize the longstanding trust you’ve built with these clients. That’s one reason the IRS urges professionals who work with taxes to be extra mindful of potential fraud as they head into the 2017 tax season. The agency warns professionals about a specific, fake email from “Your e-Services Team” with an IRS logo and the subject line “Security Awareness for Tax Professionals.” It’s a sophisticated phishing scam designed to capture key, personally identifiable information. Here’s some tips from the IRS on how to minimize your chances of being affected.
A Fake Warning
The scam email warns recipients that information was stolen from some users in 2015 and directs them to a fraudulent website in hopes they’ll divulge a username and password, and other specific financial and private information, by filling out a bogus registration. If you or your clients have already provided information to such a site, the IRS suggests that you contact its e-Services Help Desk to reset your account information. At the same time, change any other accounts that may bear the same username and password. The IRS urges you to perform a deep security scan on all of your computers and review your own e-security processes.
A Growing Threat
The recent alert is part of an overall effort by the IRS to battle the growing threat of electronic tax fraud. Working with state tax agencies and the private tax preparation industry, the IRS formed a Security Summit to educate the industry and the public about the extent of the problem. Keep in mind that fraudsters don’t always pretend to be IRS representatives. In one scheme, criminals send emails purporting to be from a client who is requesting follow-up on a supposed previous meeting.
Simple but Effective Steps
Among its top security tips, the IRS urges professionals to use high-quality security software, including encryption software, to protect taxpayer information. Another simple solution, too often overlooked, is using strong passwords that you change frequently. Finally, be suspicious of any communication purporting to represent the IRS that comes to you outside of the channels you normally use. And, when an email seems suspicious, asking for personal information about you or your clients, don’t click it or download any information.
Being actively aware of the threat can help you stay vigilant during tax season and all year long.
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