It’s Data Privacy Month and the beginning of tax season! Now is the perfect time to learn more about protecting your identity and tax data.
The IRS has reported a recent surge in tax scams targeting individuals, businesses and payroll, human resources and tax professionals. Many of these scams are phishing attacks in the form of emails. Links in these emails can contain viruses, spyware or other malware. Other phishing attacks can arrive in the form of phone calls, text messages and instant messages. Cybercriminals design these attacks to lure you into releasing sensitive data. If you suspect any particular email message of being a phishing attack, do not open any links or attachments.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid tax-return fraud and tax-related identity theft:
- File your taxes ASAP
The IRS accepts only one Social Security number per tax return, so filing early eliminates the threat of a fraudster submitting another return in your name by using your Social Security number. Watch out for ransomware, which targets digital tax files to prevent taxpayers, like you, from accessing your tax files until you pay the hacker’s ransom. Even after paying the ransom, the hacker can steal your identity, file your tax returns in your name and divert your tax refund from your designated account to cybercriminal accounts. File early to narrow the cybercrime window!
- Be careful when sharing sensitive data
Know who you are communicating with before you provide sensitive or personally identifying information (PII) such as your Social Security number, bank account number, name, or passwords. If you receive an email, text, or phone call claiming to be from the IRS, you are being phished! The IRS never initiates contact with taxpayers that way. The IRS initiates most contact via regular mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. For details, visit How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door.
- Stay informed
Pay attention to news articles and alerts such as the IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts. Keep up with the new, sophisticated and creative ways hackers can trick you into revealing your sensitive PII. For a truly informative eye-opener, consider checking out the first episode of the Netflix original series, “Spycraft.”
- Protect tax documents
After you have submitted your return successfully, make sure you secure your tax documents by placing all related papers in a fireproof safe and encrypting their digital files. Per the IRS, make sure you keep all tax records for 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 university procedures to secure your mobile devices
One of the biggest security challenges for NC State is cybercrime. That said, of particular concern is the continuous onslaught of hackers maliciously targeting mobile devices. See Mobile Security at NC State for procedures to safeguard your mobile devices.
If you suspect you’re a victim of identity fraud, file a report with each of the following:
- Local law enforcement agency
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus; request a “fraud alert” for your account with all three credit bureaus.
For additional security information, refer to: