Tax season is fast approaching. As you're gathering up all the important documents from last year, struggling to be sure that you have all the information you need and that you're filing your taxes accurately, there's one other thing you need to take into consideration: the potential for tax fraud. Both your personal information and your business information is at risk, but you can take several critical steps to protect yourself from tax fraud.
1. Know Your Scams
The more informed you are, the better you can protect yourself against any scam that might arise—and that's more true at tax time than at any other. When you're familiar with the most common scams, you can keep your personal and business information out of harm's way. The most common scams to watch out for this year include:
- Fraudulent returns, when your information is stolen and a false return issued in your name
- Phone scams, when a false IRS agent calls and insists that you pay relevant taxes immediately, with no time to think
- Phishing scams in the form of fake emails and text messages designed to appear as though they come from the IRS
Keep in mind that if the IRS contacts you, it's not going to be through email or text, nor will they call you on the phone.
2. Keep Your Information Private
You've always known that it was important to keep your social security number, your personal and professional bank account numbers, and other personal information out of the hands of scammers. As those scams become more sophisticated, however, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your information private.
To keep yourself from being the victim of a fraudulent tax return, make sure you're keeping your information secure by:
- Shredding any documents that contain private information
- Keeping your information private and choosing not to share it unless absolutely necessary
- Keeping private information off of shared networks
- Increasing password security on any financial documents held on your computer
- Knowing not to provide private information over the phone or through email, especially to people who have called specifically to ask for it
- Using security tools like DocumentGuardian™ or DeviceGuardian™ to keep your documents and devices, and the information they contain, safe
3. Know the IRS
The IRS is something that many people simply don't want to think about. They know that they have to pay taxes every year, but beyond that, they try to avoid knowing any more than necessary about the IRS. Understanding what professional communications from the IRS look like, however, will allow you to more effectively protect yourself.
- The IRS website ends with ".gov" and is a secured site that will appear with "https" in the address bar. Avoid following a link to reach it; instead, enter it into the address bar for yourself, and check for spelling errors.
- The IRS will not place a phone call or send an email. All communications will come through paper mail.
- Any information about tax preparation that comes via a pop-up or an internet link shouldn't be trusted until the validity of the site has been confirmed.
4. Update Security Software
This time of year, hackers and scammers know that most companies are scrambling to compile critical financial data. If your servers, networks, and devices aren't secure, this is the time of year for them to break in and see what they can acquire. That means you need updated security in order to protect yourself. Up-to-date security software is one of the foremost recommendations for keeping your financial data private.
5. Look Outside the IRS Scams
Scams from individuals stealing your information and submitting false returns or individuals pretending to be from the IRS are bad enough. Unfortunately, there are other scammers who are eager to take advantage during this season. These include:
- Fake charities eager to solicit a "donation" from you during a season when you have extra money thanks to a tax return
- Tax preparation specialists who really have no expertise and will either pocket part of your return for themselves or who will steal your information
- Promises of tax shelters, moving your money to offshore accounts, or anything else that sounds too good to be true.
During this tax preparation season, make sure you're taking the steps necessary to protect yourself. You don't want to be the victim of tax fraud, and we're here to help you avoid it. With secure systems that will help keep your information private and a comprehensive cloud platform you can count on, Access Business Technologies is a trusted source for all mortgage companies and their unique technology support needs.