A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB: Keep you tax information safe from scammers; tax identity is largest segment of theft

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

When consumers and business owners take their receipts in for tax filing season, they’re counting on the person preparing their taxes to keep their information safe. Tax preparers are bound by federal law to keep things confidential from cyber thieves, but despite their best efforts, tax identity theft still accounts for the largest segment of personal identity theft.

Scammers use a number of underhanded tactics to trick tax professionals into giving up important information. Regardless of the business’ size, scam artists use the same phishing emails, W-2 scams, and ransomware attacks in order to steal personal data.

In one of the most common schemes, con artists send emails to tax professionals – pretending to be from a legitimate tax software company – asking them to download and install supposedly updated software via an included link. If it’s clicked, the person unknowingly downloads a spyware software designed to record keystrokes on the computer they’re using. This is a common tactic used by cyber thieves in order to steal login details, passwords, and important information – not only about the tax preparer but about their clients as well.

Scammers use the information they gather to file finished tax returns before the taxpayer does in order to claim the money from their tax refund. Fortunately, there are a few things tax professionals can do to prevent this from happening. The best way to start is by running a deep security scan on the computer used to process tax returns. Then, ensure that the latest version of anti-virus and anti-malware software is installed on the device.

Review any software that is used to remotely access the computer’s network and update all passwords and usernames regularly throughout the tax season. Stay informed of scams that typically affect your industry, especially phishing scams, which can take many different forms.

Tax professionals are encouraged to review the information about safeguarding taxpayer data on irs.gov.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials for the Greater Cincinnati BBB, located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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