The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance is warning tax preparers about the potential security risks they face from cybercriminals who are trying to access the data of their tax clients.

The warning comes on the heels of a similar warning from the Internal Revenue Service this month (see IRS Warns Tax Pros of Security Risks). The IRS has been teaming up with state tax authorities, tax prep software companies, and major tax prep chains to improve security in response to a wave of identity theft-related tax fraud.

“Preventing cybercrimes is an ongoing battle because the criminals adapt their tactics as the technology improves,” said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jerry Boone in a statement. “According to the IRS, brazen scam artists will remotely access a tax preparer’s computer to obtain vital taxpayer data or may simply try to steal paper tax records. By probing each return to detect anomalies and creating a team dedicated to uncovering tax schemes and questionable refunds, New York State remains at the forefront of this fight against cybercrimes. We will continue to employ all available resources to help educate and protect tax preparers and their clients.”

New York State noted that by law, tax preparers need to have safeguards in place to make sure sensitive data doesn’t fall into the hands of scammers or those without proper authorization. To review those procedures, see the IRS Fact Sheet, Tax Professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.

By following some basic security measures such as the ones below, tax preparers can help safeguard their clients’ information:

Protect computers – Ensure all computers are secure when accessing taxpayer information online by looking for “https,” with an “s” for secure, in the website address. Preparers should always encrypt their wireless network with a strong password, and never access their personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.

Use strong passwords – Use a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters along with numbers and symbols when creating a new password. Tax preparers should not use their name, birth date or common words as part of their password. They should instead use a different password for each of their accounts and change the passwords frequently.

Properly dispose of private information – Shred documents to destroy sensitive information. Never toss personal or financial documents in the trash without shredding them first.

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