Tax pros warned of continuing cyberthreats

The IRS and state tax agencies are warning tax professionals of the continuing threat from cybercriminals, and have launched a series of security tips to encourage stronger measures to protect taxpayer data.

The Security Summit partners note that cybercriminals worldwide are actively targeting tax professionals to steal taxpayer information to file fraudulent returns for refunds. The Summit group, a partnership between the public and private sectors, urged the tax community to take steps now to protect information before the 2017 filing season.

This week, the IRS, the states and the tax community sent out a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals during “National Tax Security Awareness Week,” as part of the ongoing Security Summit effort.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Taxpayers have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2015 tax returns and pay any tax owed. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The Summit partners recently expanded their ongoing public awareness campaign by launching the “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaign. As part of this initiative, the partners will issue weekly security awareness tax tips through January aimed at tax professionals.

The “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaign comes as Security Summit partners have issued a number of alerts warning of cybercriminal efforts. Recent alerts have warned about:

  • E-mail phishing schemes posing as potential clients, trying to trick preparers into downloading malware.
  • Phishing e-mails that pose as IRS e-Services and attempt to steal e-Services users’ usernames and passwords.
  • Remote takeover schemes in which cybercriminals actually take control of preparers’ computers and file fraudulent returns.

The series of security awareness tips focuses on security measures that tax professionals can take to better protect taxpayer data and to guard against the ever-evolving nature of identity theft and refund fraud. The IRS also urges tax professionals to sign up for official IRS communications such as e-News for Tax Professionals.

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