WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today reminded families, teens and senior citizens about the continued importance of protecting personal and financial information (.pdf) online. Although the IRS and its Security Summit partners continue making strides in fighting identity theft and fraudulent tax returns, help is needed.
The Security Summit works to protect taxpayers from criminals that file fraudulent returns for refunds. The Summit coalition includes representatives of the software industry, tax preparation firms, payroll and tax financial product processors as well as state tax administrators and the IRS, which work together year-round to protect taxpayers.
During National Cybersecurity Month, the IRS is asking parents, families and others to be mindful of the pitfalls that can be found by sharing devices at home, shopping online and through navigating various social media platforms. Often, those who are less experienced can put themselves and others at risk by leaving an unnecessary trail of personal information for fraudsters.
Staying safe online
Here are a few common-sense suggestions that can make a difference for children, teens and other vulnerable groups to potential dangers to protect their personal data:
- Teach them to recognize and avoid scams. Phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as the IRS or legitimate organizations pose ongoing risks. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Remind them why security is important. Be careful not to reveal too much personal information. Keeping data secure and only providing what is necessary minimizes online exposure to scammers and criminals. Birthdates, addresses, age, financial information such as bank account and Social Security numbers are among things that should not be shared freely.
- Teach them about public Wi-Fi networks. Connection to Wi-Fi in a mall or coffee shop is convenient but it may not be safe. Hackers and cybercriminals can easily intercept personal information. Always use a virtual private network when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Remember, to encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers. Be sure all family members have comprehensive protection especially if devices are being shared. Use strong, unique passwords for each account.
Remember, the IRS does not use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving tax refunds, stimulus payments or tax bills. For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is also available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.
IRS tip 2021-209