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National Tax Security Awareness Week is Dec. 2-6 Taxpayers are encouraged to improve their online security

Raleigh

The N.C. Department of Revenue, the Internal Revenue Service, other state tax agencies, and the nation's tax industry recently announced that the 4th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week is set for Dec. 2 - 6.

During the week, taxpayers, businesses and tax professionals are encouraged to enhance their online security as the holiday shopping season kicks off and identity thieves step up their efforts to steal personal and financial data.

"While people are shopping online, identity thieves are trying to shoplift their sensitive information. As the holiday season and tax season approach, everyone should remember to take basic steps to protect themselves," said Chuck Rettig, IRS Commissioner. "The Security Summit has made progress in fighting back against tax-related identity theft, but we need people to watch out for common scams that can put their financial and tax data at risk."

As part of the effort, the IRS and Summit partners created new YouTube videos on security steps for taxpayers. The videos can be viewed or downloaded at Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer and Phone and Avoid Phishing Emails.

The IRS also updated Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, which businesses can share with their employees and customers while tax professionals can share with clients.

December's National Tax Security Awareness Week features five days of basic security guidance for those most at-risk: individual taxpayers, business taxpayers and tax professionals. Highlights include:

Day 1: Protect personal and financial information online

The NCDOR, IRS and Security Summit remind people to take these basic steps:

  • Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated.
  • Protect personal information; don't hand it out to just anyone.
  • Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Shop only secure websites. Look for the "https" in web addresses; avoid shopping on unsecured and public wi-fi in places like shopping malls.
  • Routinely back up files on computers and mobile phones.

Day 2: Learn to recognize phishing emails and phone scams

Email scams often:

  • Pose as companies people know and trust.
  • Tell an urgent story to trick victims into opening link or attachment.

Watch out for scam phone calls, too. Remember:

  • The NCDOR, IRS, and other tax agencies do not call demanding payment with threats of jail or lawsuit.
  • The NCDOR, IRS, and other tax agencies do not demand payment via gift or debit cards. Tax agencies do not accept tax payments by iTunes cards.
  • The NCDOR, IRS, and other tax agencies do not send unsolicited emails about refunds or payments, requesting either login credentials, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information.

Day 3: Create strong passwords to protect online accounts

The password standards have changed. Here are some simple guidelines:

  • Use long phrases combined with characters and numbers. For example: SomethingOneCanRemember@30.
  • Use a different password for each account; don't use an email address if that's an option and use a password manager.
  • Use two-factor authentication whenever it's offered, for example on email accounts, financial accounts and social media accounts.

Day 4: Recognize clues of identity theft

A business taxpayer may be an identity theft victim if:

  • An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate is already on file with the IRS.
  • Routine extensions to file requests are rejected.
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or a notice is received.
  • Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the NCDOR, IRS, or other tax agencies which can be an indicator an identity thief has changed the address.

Day 5: Tax professionals should review their safeguards

The NCDOR, IRS, and the Summit partners urge tax pros to review the Taxes-Security-Together Checklist, including:

  • Deploy basic security measures.
  • Create a written data security plan as required by law.
  • Know about phishing and phone scams.
  • Recognize the signs of client data theft.
  • Create a data theft recovery plan.

For more information National Tax Security Awareness Week, go to www.irs.gov.