As the IRS commissioner said earlier this year, 'IRS e-file is now the norm, not the exception,'
Nashville, TN (PRWEB) February 17, 2011
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 70 percent of U.S. taxpayers used IRS e-file for their tax returns in 2010. In response to this rising trend, the fraud solutions division of Kroll is offering taxpayers important insight and simple ways to reduce their risk of identity theft while electronically filing their taxes this year.
"As the IRS commissioner said earlier this year, 'IRS e-file is now the norm, not the exception,'" said Brian Lapidus, chief operating officer for the fraud solutions division of Kroll. "In fact, 90% of Kroll investigators say they plan on submitting their tax returns electronically this year. But taxpayers must be cognizant of the risks - just as much as the rewards - that go along with e-filing. Fortunately, there are certain actions taxpayers can take to allow them to enjoy the benefits of e-filing, while ensuring that their personal information is protected."
Kroll's advice for taxpayers planning to file electronically in 2011 includes:
1. Obtain a list of all authorized e-file providers registered with the IRS. This year marks the 21st season of electronic filing with nearly 1 billion tax returns processed. All taxpayers that count themselves part of the latest trend should ensure they are using a credible e-file provider.
2. Beware of phishing scams. To avoid this annual threat, taxpayers must remember one simple fact: the IRS never contacts taxpayers by e-mail or phone to request sensitive personal information. If you suspect that you are the target of a phishing scam, file a complaint with the Anti-Phishing Working Group and contact the IRS immediately. This is particularly important as the IRS rolls out new electronic taxpayer resources, including the IRS2Go smartphone app, which allows the user to check the status of their tax return and receive tax tips. Similar tips are posted on the IRS' Twitter page, as well. Keep in mind that all IRS communications are one-way. The IRS will never ask you to submit personal information through these channels.
3. Never prepare or submit tax returns on public computers, which can contain malicious software - or malware - such as "keylogger" spyware used to record every keystroke. It also increases vulnerability to "shoulder surfers" - individuals who look over your shoulder to observe and collect sensitive data. In one particular case, Kroll's investigators helped a victim who had used a public computer to access his tax claim on an e-file provider's website. After the fact, the victim discovered that a hacker had lifted his password from the public computer and inappropriately accessed his account. Making matters worse, the victim informed investigators that he used the same password for multiple accounts (another bad practice), which gave the hacker access to his e-mail and bank accounts, as well.
4. Avoid sending data over public Wi-Fi. If not properly secured, data can easily be picked up by an unauthorized party. Don't confuse network access and network security. The need for a password to log on to a network does not mean the network is secure. The Federal Trade Commission offers this tip about Wi-Fi hotspots: "When using a Wi-Fi hotspot, only log in or send personal information to websites that you know are fully encrypted." Keep in mind that a site may only be encrypted at the login page and not the other pages.
5. Keep a record of your tax returns only as long as necessary. After all, data thieves can't steal what you don't have. Whenever possible, safely discard any electronic records or paperwork once the need for them has expired. For paper record disposal, be sure they are shredded before they are thrown out - a crosscut shredder is best. For electronic records, ensure that anything you absolutely must keep cannot be shared through a peer-to-peer network, and never discard or sell an old computer containing sensitive information unless the hard drive has been effectively wiped (simply deleting files won't do the trick). As to how long to keep your records, suggested guidelines are available through the IRS.
The IRS and their Office of Identity Protection are well aware of the identity theft risks facing taxpayers today. As a result, they have stepped up efforts to process these returns safely and efficiently. Specific details should be released in the near future. Until then, the IRS is keeping these measures behind closed doors and away from potential fraudsters.
About Kroll Inc.
Kroll, the world's leading risk consulting company, provides a broad range of investigative, intelligence, financial, security, and technology services to help clients reduce risks, solve problems, and capitalize on opportunities. Headquartered in New York with offices in more than 55 cities in over 27 countries, Kroll has a multidisciplinary team of more than 3,000 employees and serves a global clientele of law firms, financial institutions, corporations, non-profit institutions, government agencies, and individuals. Kroll is an Altegrity company.
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