Sadly, dealing with online swindlers has become a way of life these days. That means you have to keep your guard up at all times or you’ll find yourself with the unenviable title of “victim.”
You might come across schemes that aren’t as dangerous as others, like-farming scams found on social media. Tap or click here to find out how a fake Costco coupon constantly shows up on Facebook.
But other scams can be much more malicious. The IRS is warning everyone about a huge increase in tax scams making the rounds. The good news is there’s one simple step you can take to stay protected.
IRS encourages the use of multi-factor authentication
The IRS said it’s already received reports of data thefts from nearly two dozen tax practitioner firms this year. This can lead to not only having your tax returns stolen, but also your identity.
In an effort to stop these thefts, the IRS and its Security Summit partners are calling on tax professionals and taxpayers to use the free multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication (2FA) feature offered on tax preparation software products.
An IRS official said:
“The IRS, state tax agencies and the private-sector tax industry have worked together as the Security Summit to make sure the multi-factor authentication feature is available to practitioners and taxpayers alike. The multi-factor authentication feature is simple to set up and easy to use. Using it may just save you from the financial pain and frustration of identity theft.”
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If you’re not already familiar with 2FA, it means users must enter their credentials, plus another data point only they know, such as a code sent to their phone, to log in to an online account.
With 2FA enabled, thieves may steal your password but they will be unable to access your online account without your mobile phone to receive the security code. You should be using 2FA whenever it’s offered for all of your accounts.
How to protect your tax returns and identity
The IRS said it needs everyone’s help to fight back against identity and tax thieves. While 2FA is a critical step to stay protected, there are other things you can do that will help.
Here are some tips the IRS gave to protect your data and identity:
- Use multi-factor authentication when it’s offered. Tap or click here to find out how to protect your online accounts and cell number.
- Use security software on your devices and make sure it updates automatically.
- Use encryption programs to protect sensitive digital data. For the strongest protection, Kim recommends ExpressVPN. Get an extra 3 months free of ExpressVPN when you sign up at ExpressVPN.com/Kim.
- Treat your personal information like cash — don’t leave it lying around.
- Use strong, unique passwords for all online accounts. Consider using a password manager if you need help. Tap or click for the worst passwords of 2019 – are you using one?
- Give personal and financial information only over encrypted websites. Look for https addresses.
Beware of phishing scams
Another thing to watch for is identity thieves using phishing emails to trick you into giving up passwords and other information. Scammers might pose as trusted sources like your bank or a tax provider and send an urgent message asking you to update your account now with instructions to open a link or attachment.
Don’t take the bait! Never click on links or attachments found inside unsolicited emails or texts; they could be phishing scams. If you need to deal with your bank or tax provider, call them with their official phone numbers or type their web address directly into your browser.
The IRS has a couple of guidelines to follow that will help keep you protected. First, never download software or apps from pop-up advertising. Second, talk to family members about online security for their computers and mobile devices.
If you see any suspicious online or emailed phishing scams report them to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should also report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.