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K&F News Brief: IRS Summer Campaign — Fighting Identity Theft With Security Education

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Security Summit is hosting its annual summer campaign “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” to encourage stronger security among tax preparers. This year’s theme is entitled “Boost Security Immunity: Fighting Against Identity Theft” and focuses on the risk of data and identity theft in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The Security Summit was founded in 2015 with partners from the IRS, the tax and finance communities, and the software industry, all of whom provide unique expertise on how best to fight identity theft and protect the nation’s taxpayers. Since its foundation, the Security Summit’s efforts have helped dramatically reduce identity theft and save billions in taxpayer dollars. To continue this success, the Security Summit seeks to have tax preparers cooperate by implementing common sense security measures that protect sensitive taxpayer information. To learn about ways to protect your data, and that of your clients and business if you are a tax preparer, click here.

Data and identity theft has been steadily on the rise since 2019, due in large part to pandemic-related causes such as economic downturn and the rise of telecommuting. Data thefts reported to the IRS by tax preparers have also been climbing, and each instance of theft can have far-reaching consequences. To tech-savvy criminal syndicates, tax preparers can be a particularly tempting target, as their computer systems may contain highly sensitive information for hundreds or potentially thousands of taxpayers. Once a scammer obtains this data, they may be able to use it to file fraudulent tax returns, which are unusually hard to detect since they contain real taxpayer information.

“Protect Your Client; Protect Yourself” kicked off on July 20 and continues through August 17. Security recommendations for tax preparers are shared every Tuesday via the IRS’s News Releases. In the first release, Security Summit partners shared that some technologies that aid in the fight against data theft and help optimize security, such as multi-factor authentication, antivirus software, and computer backup services, are also inexpensive and widely accessible. Additional topics covered during the campaign include: enrolling clients for Identity Protection PINs through the IRS to stave off fraudulent returns, helping clients protect themselves against unemployment compensation fraud, avoiding increasingly sophisticated phishing scams, and spotting the red flags of identity theft.