Pennsylvanians urged to protect sensitive information during the holiday season | News, Sports, Jobs
HARRISBURG – With the holiday shopping season underway, the Department of Revenue is urging Pennsylvanians to take appropriate steps to protect their personal information from identity thieves and cybercriminals. These malicious actors constantly strive to steal sensitive information, including data that can be used to file fraudulent tax returns and claim fraudulent tax refunds.
“We want everyone to know that these criminals regularly come up with new schemes to impersonate reputable organizations, including government agencies,” said Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell. “They use email, telephone and other tactics to try to trick you into giving out your passwords or sensitive information. As our IRS partners say, don’t take the hook. Be careful and always beware, especially any unsolicited messages or calls you receive.
The warning comes during the sixth annual National Tax Security Awareness Week, which runs from November 29 to December 3. This initiative is a partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies and other players in the tax industry including tax professionals, scams and encourage people to protect their sensitive financial information. Below are some tips to keep in mind.
Tips for protecting personal and financial information online:
– Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it up to date.
– Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
– Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
– Only buy secure websites; Look for the “https” in web addresses and the padlock icon; Avoid shopping over an unsecured public Wi-Fi network in places such as cafes, malls or restaurants.
Tips for avoiding phishing scams
– Identity thieves often use phishing emails to trick users into giving out passwords and other information. Look for:
– E-mails and other communications that present themselves as a reliable source, such as impostors declaring that they are an official of the IRS, the Department of Revenue or another government entity.
– Emails containing an urgent message or instructions for opening a link or attachment.
– Pop-up advertising software or applications that ask you to download a file.
– Requests for unusual payment methods.
Advice for tax professionals
In addition to the tips mentioned above, there are other signs that tax professionals should be on the lookout for this signal data theft. Here are some common clues shared by the IRS that may suggest that a tax professional could be a victim:
– Customer returns filed electronically are starting to be rejected because returns with their social security numbers have already been filed.
– Customers who have not filed tax returns begin to receive authentication letters from the IRS.
– Customers who have not filed tax returns receive refunds.
– The number of returns produced with the tax specialist’s electronic filing identification number (EFIN) exceeds the number of clients.
Computers on the network are running slower than normal.
– Computer cursors move or change numbers without touching the keyboard.
– Networked computers lock out tax professionals.
What to do if you are the victim of a scam
The Ministry of Revenue reminds taxpayers that it has a Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit dedicated to assisting victims of identity theft and the fight against tax refund fraud.
If you are a victim of identity theft or discover that a fraudulent Pennsylvania tax return has been filed using your identity, please contact the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit by sending an email to [email protected]
For more information on how to protect yourself, visit Revenue’s Identity Theft Victim Support webpage. You can also find more information about online protection at PA.gov/Cybersecurity.
National tax security
As part of National Tax Security Awareness Week, the IRS and its partners are sharing YouTube videos on security measures for taxpayers such as Easy Steps to Protect Your Computer and Phone and How Security Measures Help protect yourself against tax identity theft.
You can also follow the Department of Revenue on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for periodic scam reminders and tips on how to protect yourself.