IRS, agencies urge financial safeguards during holiday season

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry are marking the start of National Tax Security Awareness Week with tips on financial safeguards during the holiday season.

The IRS and the Security Summit, which consists of 42 state agencies and 20 industry offices in addition to the IRS, on Monday issued a warning to beware of scams and identity theft schemes by criminals taking advantage of the combination of holiday shopping, the approaching tax season and coronavirus concerns.

“This is generally the hunting season for online thieves, but this year there’s a dangerous combination of factors at play that should make people more alert,” said Chuck Rettig, IRS commissioner, in a press release. “The combination of online holiday shopping, the approaching filing season and more of us are working remotely puts people more at risk.”

The agencies provided some basic steps consumers should remember during the holidays and as the 2021 tax season approaches:

  • Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated.
  • Make sure purchased anti-virus software has a feature to stop malware and that there is a firewall that can prevent intrusions.
  • Phishing scams – like imposter emails, calls and texts – are the number-one way thieves steal personal data, so don’t open links or attachments on suspicious emails. This year, fraud scams related to COVID-19 and the Economic Impact Payment are common.
  • Use strong and unique passwords for online accounts and use a phrase or series of words that can be easily remembered, or use a password manager.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Shop at sites where the web address begins with “https” – the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. Also, look for the padlock icon in the browser window.
  • Don’t shop on unsecured public wi-fi
  • At home, secure home wi-fi with a password.
  • Back up files on computers and mobile phones. A cloud service or an external hard drive can be used to copy information from computers or phones, providing an important place to recover financial or tax data.
  • Working from home? Consider creating a virtual private network to securely connect to your workplace.

The full press release can be accessed on the IRS website.

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