Fraud and Identity Theft
Learn How to Protect Yourself
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A recent study by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company (HSB0), part of Munich Re, determined that 67 percent of U.S. consumers are concerned about tax fraud and identity theft. According to the IRS, phishing and malware incidents increased by 400 percent this tax season. 

Cybercrime is on the rise and you should know how to protect yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Use strong passwords and store them in a secure location – ideally not on your computer.

  • Do not share your user ids and passwords with anyone unless it is necessary. Avoid sending sign on credentials via email, call instead with the information.

  • Never use a public computer to send sensitive information such as your social security number, credit card data, etc.

  • Avoid using a public computer to send your accountant tax information or to e-file your tax return. Always send sensitive information to your accountant via a secure portal.

  • Ensure that your home computer is protected. Install security software and other systems to secure your network and computer. Mare sure that you keep everything updated. Turn on the automated update feature in your programs, as well as the antispam and phishing features in your email program.

  • Inspect financials documents sent to you in the mail such as W-2s, tax refunds, bank account statements, etc. Contact the IRS immediately if it appears something has been opened. 

  • Do not open attachments that you are not expecting, even if someone you know sends the document. Fraudsters are using other people’s email addresses to send spyware and malware.

  • Watch the wording of emails that you receive from contacts. If the language is unusual for the person who is supposedly sending it, delete the email immediately. 
  • Scammers frequently pose as the IRS, government agencies, banks, financial institutions, credit card companies, online merchants, and other companies. Be cautious if you received a link to update payment or account information. Do not click on the link. It might take you to a spoofing site that looks similar to the actual website in question. Instead go directly to the site, sign in, and access your account.
  • Lookalike URLs are frequently used to by fraudsters to convince you to go to a website to give them your social security number, credit card, and personal information. Instead of www.irs.gov you could be asked to click on www.irs.gov.maliciousname.com. If you place your cursor over the text of the URL, you will be able to view a pop-up of the real URL.
  • Business owners should never send information on employees, especially W-2s and personal information via email, even if requested to do so. Criminals are assuming the identities of people in companies that typically ask for this information. If in doubt, call your contact first to ensure that the request is legitimate. 

  • Bring important mail containing sensitive information to the post office instead of putting it in your mailbox. 

  • Do not give anyone your social security number unless you are confident that the person is who they say they are and you absolutely must.

  • Shred all documents that contain sensitive personal information.

Opening a phishing email, clicking on a link or opening an attachment can position you to be a victim of fraud or identity theft. The best way to protect yourself is to be alert and cautious. If something seems “off” do not proceed. 

The IRS does not email or call taxpayers. Instead, communication from the IRS is sent via the U.S. postal system. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions at 610.828.1900 or Marty.McCarthy@MCC-CPAs.com.

Disclaimer: This alert is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Information contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used as tax advice, and cannot be used by the recipient to avoid penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code.  We strongly advise you to seek professional assistance with respect to your specific issue(s).  

Martin C. McCarthy, CPA
Managing Partner
McCarthy & Company, PC