Identity Theft and Cybersecurity
Scams! Schemes! Cybercrime! Stealing! Phishing! Hey, Be Careful Out There.
As identity theft schemes become more complex, it is important for businesses and individuals to take appropriate measures to ensure assets are protected. Both businesses and individuals rely on technology that makes many aspects of their financial lives easier. However, this can also pave the way to exposing sensitive financial information to cybercriminals if security measures are not taken.
A common example of how cybercriminals steal data is by using phishing scams. Cybercriminals can pose as a data storage provider, bank, or the IRS, for example, by sending an urgent email and providing a link or attachment to resolve the purported issue.
A nefarious link can deliver unsuspecting account owners to a fake bank site and prompt a log in to an account. Account owners would unwittingly be revealing their login credentials to cyberthieves.
Caution should be exercised when an unusual or suspicious email is received, even if it appears to come from someone familiar. Call the sender directly to verify that the email is safe.
Opening an attachment included with a phishing email is equally risky. In opening an attachment, malware may be downloaded, unleashing virus that can infect the user’s computer. It is important for businesses to train employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing scams. Suspicious IRS-related emails can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A tax-related identity theft is when a fraudulent tax return is filed with the IRS, using a stolen Social Security number to claim a fraudulent refund. This type of theft is often discovered when a taxpayer is notified by the IRS that a return was filed under their Social Security number. It is important to note that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, social media, or phone. Legitimate communications from the IRS are always received by mail on IRS letterhead.
Taxpayers should take basic security measures to protect themselves against identity theft, including regularly monitoring their credit reports as well requesting tax transcripts to ensure that the records the IRS has on file are accurate.
In case of identity theft, taxpayers are advised to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov and to contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your records. Taxpayers can request a credit freeze to stop any new accounts from being opened in their name. Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, should also be mailed or faxed to the IRS to flag the taxpayer’s account for fraudulent activity. In the event that a resolution is not obtained with the IRS, a taxpayer can also contact the Identity Protection Specialist Unit at 1-800-908-4490.