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Tax Hacks: How to Protect Your Data During Tax Season

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By: Olivia

February 6, 2018

As if tax season wasn’t enough to give you a headache, this year the risk of being scammed is higher than ever. “Why?” you groan. In the wake of the Equifax breach, in which millions of Americans personally identifiable information (PII) was compromised, much of the data needed to commit a scam during tax season is more readily available than ever."That’s exactly the kind of data that the criminals use to commit tax refund fraud and other kinds of tax scams," said Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at Gartner, “The most common scam is when someone files for a refund in your name. And if they don’t already have your personal information, criminals often try to get it through email or phone scams…pretending to be the IRS. "Like telling you to come to their site to get the refund or telling you that you’re being fined, or under investigation.”Just last week, the Charlotte, N.C., Housing Authority was hit with a W-2 phishing email that was sent to an employee. It appeared to be from the CEO asking for all current and former W-2 records. The employee responded, providing the records, which contained employee names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and wage information.Unfortunately, with the string of breaches during 2017, much of our information can be found online already with little authentication- everything from your credit card account number, mortgage, to your home equity and car loans. Consumers are advised to use a credit monitoring service to flag suspicious use of your information.Hackers will not just stop at online research to obtain the information they need to file taxes on your behalf or further compromise your data. Often, they’ll resort to reaching out via phone or email posing as the IRS. Keep in mind these are not the communication methods used by the agency. If you receive an email of any kind, consider forwarding it to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen warned, "Don't be fooled by surprise phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents with threats or promises of a big refund if you provide them with your private information. And if you do get a call from someone pretending to be an IRS agent, you should just hang up. "In the case that you file your taxes electronically and they are rejected, chances are identify theft is already at work and you will need to submit an Identity Theft Affidavit.Hopefully, it will not come to that point. You can use these helpful tips to keep your data safe this tax season:
  1. File your taxes as early as you can
  2. Do not respond to calls or emails claiming to be the IRS
  3. Monitor your accounts regularly
  4. Report attempts to scam you- even if they’re unsuccessful
  5. Brush up on cyber security best practices
Luckily, Cybrary has a variety of resources that are useful for individuals and employees in any industry to learn cyber security. A few courses and labs that may be helpful are:Olivia Lynch (@Cybrary_Olivia) is the Marketing Manager at Cybrary. Like many of you, she is just getting her toes wet in the field of cyber security. A firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword, Olivia considers corny puns and an honest voice essential to any worthwhile blog.
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