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Protect yourself from tax fraud with these tips from BBB, IRS

Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau
Emily Valla, Idaho Better Business Bureau

If your Social Security number has been compromised, your chances of dealing with tax fraud jump significantly. And with the major data breaches that have occurred in 2017, many of us find ourselves in this situation.

Better Business Bureau is partnering with the Internal Revenue Service and other national and statewide organizations to announce National Tax Security Awareness week, kicking off Monday, Nov. 27, and continuing through Friday, Dec. 1. We encourage both individual and business taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities in leading up to the 2018 tax filing season.

Shockingly enough, your information may already be in the hands of thieves, or you may be unwittingly compromising personal information. If you’re shopping online, clicking links or utilizing public Wi-Fi this holiday season, be vigilant.

“The information you share on these holiday transactions could be stolen and used by identity thieves to help them try filing a fraudulent tax return,” said Karen Connelly, IRS spokeswoman. “Recent data breaches may make this information even more appealing to cybercriminals. But we want to remind you there are some simple steps to help protect yourself.”

National Tax Security Awareness Week is now in its second year. This is especially timely as the holiday season brings out not only online shoppers but online thieves seeking to trick people into disclosing sensitive information that could be used to help file fraudulent tax returns.

Throughout this week, test your knowledge and learn more about security software, password security and data encryption. Consider the following: Do you know what to do if you’re the victim of a data breach? Can you spot a phishing email, especially in the workplace?

To get started, follow these three key steps:

▪  Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as banks, credit card companies and government organizations, including the IRS. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.

▪  Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and will automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers. Use strong passwords.

▪  Protect personal data. Use strong, unique passwords for each online account. Don’t routinely carry Social Security cards, and make sure tax records are secure. Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.

To follow the tips throughout the week, join BBB on social media, and check out the IRS’s “Taxes. Security. Together” awareness campaign at irs.gov.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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