It’s Data Privacy Month and the beginning of the tax season, the perfect time to learn more about protecting your tax documents.
The IRS has reported a surge in tax scams targeting individuals, businesses, payroll and human resources professionals, and even professional tax preparers.
Many of these scams are phishing attacks in the form of emails designed to trick you into releasing sensitive data; others are phone calls, text messages or instant messages.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid tax-return fraud and tax-related identity theft:
- File your taxes ASAP
A recent ransomware threat is targeting digital tax files to prevent taxpayers, like you, from accessing your tax files until you pay the hacker’s ransom. Even after the ransom is paid, the hacker can steal your identity, file your tax returns in your name and divert your tax refund. File early to narrow the cybercrime window.
- Be careful when sharing sensitive data
Know who you are communicating with before you provide sensitive or identifying information, such as your Social Security number, bank account number, name, or passwords. The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media channels. It initiates most contact via regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. For more details, visit:
- Stay informed
Pay attention to news articles and alerts, such as the IRS Tax Scams / Consumer Alerts, which forewarn of the new, sophisticated and creative ways hackers can trick you into revealing your sensitive, personally identifying information. Some of the new tactics may surprise you.
- Protect tax documents
After you have submitted your return successfully, secure your tax documents by placing them in a fireproof safe and encrypting the electronic versions. Per the IRS, records should be kept at least three years.
- Get an Identity Protection PIN
North Carolina is one of the many states participating in the Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) program. The IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to verify their identity when submitting their federal tax forms. It helps to prevent someone from filing a fraudulent federal income tax return with your Social Security number.
- Follow all NC State procedures to secure your mobile devices
One of the biggest security challenges for NC State is cybercrime — especially when malicious hackers target mobile devices. See Mobile Security at NC State for details on how to secure your mobile devices.
For additional security information, see: