Most of us think of the IRS as that government organization that collects taxes from individuals and organizations. However, the IRS does other work as well. This includes keeping tax information safe from fraudsters and thieves. Thus the IRS has a new press release from the Security Summit during Tax Security Week (Dec. 3-7) entitled “It’s shopping season for identity thieves, too.”

With tax season just around the corner, it is extra important for individuals and businesses to protect financial information and tax data. Taxpaying shoppers can take a few simple steps to help avoid having their tax refunds taken. They can also keep identity thieves for others by exercising precautions that make it harder for the thieves to steal, turning stolen data into quick cash. Fraudsters can do this by:

  • Draining financial accounts
  • Fraudulently charging on credit cards
  • Creating new credit accounts with your information
  • Filing fraudulent tax returns for a bigger refund

Seven steps to avoiding fraud

Some of these are obvious, but others may be surprise:

  • Do not use unprotected Wi-Fi.
  • Shop at familiar or respected online retailers.
  • Learn to avoid phishing emails posing as a trusted site (even the IRS) because links may take taxpayers to fake sites and then ask you to update personal information.
  • Use strong passwords with case sensitive letters, numbers and characters.
  • Use multi-factor authentication, such as password and a code sent to phone.
  • Encrypt and password protect sensitive data.

Contact an attorney if someone has committed online fraud

If these thieves’ cause tax issues, an attorney may be able to help resolve the matter to avoid paying money to the IRS or state organizations. A knowledgeable attorney can also help clients with a variety of matters involving tax and legal obligations.