Tax time is here again, and you know what that means: cyber criminals are lurking, trying to use the confusion of the season to their advantage. The scary part is: they’re succeeding. Between phishing emails and aggressive phone tax scams, criminals have stolen billions of dollars from well-meaning citizens and business owners who are just trying to pay their taxes.
You know it’s important to protect your personal information as an individual, but the need for protection increases exponentially when you’re a business owner. You need to watch out for your own information, as well as your employees’, and maybe even your clients’. Here are some ways to detect tax scams and safeguard the private, personal data both in your office and online.
1.) Hang up
More and more scammers are using phone calls to steal money. Their tactic is to scare you into making false tax payments over the phone. They may say you’ll be arrested or that your license will be revoked if you don’t pay immediately. They even use real IRS titles and fake badge numbers to make themselves seem more legitimate. Remember these key facts:
- The real IRS will never call you or your office to demand immediate payment. They will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone, and cannot ask that you make your payment in a specific way (like using a prepaid debit card, iTunes gift card, or a wire transfer).
- If the person you’re speaking to is aggressive or makes threats against you, hang up immediately. You can verify any claims they’ve made by calling the IRS directly. The IRS is aware of these tax scams, and encourages anyone who has been contacted to report the incident using the resources listed here.
2.) Delete that email
Phishing emails are a tried-and-true method used by scammers to steal people’s money. These emails contain links to fake IRS websites, often disguised to look like the real thing. When the link is clicked, malware is downloaded into the victim’s computer, allowing the scammer to view and steal private information from that machine.
Safeguarding your own computer isn’t enough. Tax season is a great time to review your cyber security procedures with your staff to make sure everyone knows the risks and what to do if one of your work computers is compromised. Unsuspecting clients may even fall victim to these emails, inadvertently exposing their information and yours to cyber criminals. Keep in mind:
- The IRS will never send you an email asking for payment. If you owe taxes, they will send you communications by mail. A tax-filing service would be able to help you keep records of tax payments, making it easier to combat fraudulent payment requests.
- If you receive an email that appears to be from the IRS, don’t open it. If you do, don’t click any links. Delete the email immediately, and contact the IRS to alert them of the scam. Again, the IRS knows about these scams and is working with taxpayers to stomp them out.
3.) Secure your office
Cyber-crime is a serious threat, but don’t let that distract you from safeguarding your on-site e-files and physical files, too. Ask yourself these questions to see if your office is doing everything it can to keep confidential tax information secure:
- Do I have procedures in place to protect these files? Am I in charge, or have I appointed someone to oversee their safekeeping?
- Are all the computers on my premises password-protected and enabled with anti-virus software?
- Are my employees’ and/or clients’ files kept locked in a safe location?
These are vital questions for a small business owner to ask. If you aren’t confident you’re doing everything you can to protect the sensitive information of your employees or clients, or if you just aren’t sure where to start, you may want to consider hiring a tax-filing services team. We fight right alongside you to safeguard the sensitive information you share with us for payroll and tax-filing purposes.
It’s our job to make your job easier. That means thinking of all these questions and finding the right solutions. We do our part to keep your tax filing information secure. We also take on the liability of making sure tax deposits and filing are done correctly and on-time. So, if the tax season scams leave you feeling uneasy, you’re not alone. Give us a call today to see how a payroll and tax filing service may be able to help put your mind at ease.