As if there wasn’t already enough to look forward to at tax time, throw another fun fact on the pile: fraudsters go into overdrive this time of year. Amidst the busy hubbub, with distracted taxpayers firing off a flurry of sensitive information through what is sometimes less than secure means; tax season might as well be Christmas for scam artists grabbing the “gifts” of stolen identities and other sensitive data.
More than 1500 tax scams reportedly target consumers and businesses through hundreds of thousands of scam emails; many use phishing to fool anxious taxpayers into visiting a scam website or providing personal and financial data in order to comply with tax filings. Some scams specifically target businesses, for example several popular scams specifically directed at medical professionals. Protecting yourself starts by getting smart about common scams and the rules of the road – such as the fact that the IRS never requests sensitive information online.
A recent survey conducted by Impulse Research Group for Experian ProtectMyIDTM, illustrates the general lack of awareness about this vulnerable time for data theft. Forty-eight percent of respondents admit that they store their tax documents in an unsecure place, and 89% of those who use a tax professional or service are not concerned about their accountant losing their financial information.
The survey developed some key cautionary tips based on their survey, which consumers and businesses would be wise to follow as they face the hazards of tax time:
- Enjoy the convenience of filing online, but don’t forget to protect your financial security through up to date antivirus settings, deleted cookies after submission, and due diligence about the security of any online tax service.
- Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re filing by hard copy; make sure you send all tax documents by Certified Mail and store tax documents in a secure, locked place. Shred any unneeded documents.
- Don’t assume that using an accountant protects you from identity theft; make sure that your accountant is taking the same precautions to protect your data that you should on your own.
During this time when fraudsters are in full force, just remember to remain vigilant about keeping your most sensitive data out of the hands of anyone besides your tax advisers and Uncle Sam.