Highlights from 2021 National Tax Security Awareness Week

IRS Tax Tip 2021-180, December 6, 2021

The IRS and its Security Summit partners recently held the annual National Tax Security Awareness Week. One of the key messages this year was even if someone doesn't file a tax return, their online interactions can lead to scammers stealing sensitive information and using it to try and get a tax refund. Here are some other key messages from the week.

Protect personal and financial information online

Everyone should take these basic steps:

  • Use security software for computers and mobile phones – and keep it updated.
  • Avoid phishing scams, especially related to tax refunds and COVID-19, Economic Impact Payments and other tax law changes.
  • Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
  • Shop only secure websites by looking for the https in web addresses and the padlock icon.
  • Avoid shopping on unsecured and public Wi-Fi in places such as coffee shops, malls and restaurants.

Beware of scammers using fake charities

Here are some tips on how to avoid getting scammed when donating to charities.

  • Individuals should never let any caller pressure them into giving a donation without allowing time for them to do some research.
  • They should confirm the charity is real by asking for its exact name, website and mailing address and confirming it later.
  • Donors should be careful about how a donation is made. After researching the charity, they should pay by credit card or check and not by gift card or wiring money.

Get an Identity Protection PIN

Taxpayers who can verify their identities online may opt into the IRS IP PIN program. This is another tool taxpayers can use to protect themselves – and their tax refund. Here's what taxpayers need to know:

  • The Identity Protection PIN or IP PIN is a six-digit code known only to the individual and the IRS. It provides another layer of protection for taxpayers' Social Security numbers on tax returns.
  • Use the Get an Identity Protection PIN tool to immediately get an IP PIN. Access to the tool is available from early January through mid-November.
  • Never share the IP PIN with anyone but a trusted tax provider.

Businesses should establish safeguards and watch out for tax-related scams

Most cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Here are some details for small businesses:

  • Learn about best security practices for small businesses.
  • IRS continues protective masking of sensitive information on business transcripts.
  • Form 14039-B, A Business Identity Theft Affidavit PDF, is available for all businesses to report theft to the IRS.
  • Beware of various scams, especially the W-2 scam that attempts to steal employee income information.
  • Check out the business section on the Identity Theft Central page of IRS.gov.

For additional tips and resources, visit the 2021 National Tax Security Awareness Week page on IRS.gov.

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