Not long after the Internal Revenue Service alerted the nation’s tax preparers to be on guard against the theft of confidential information in their care, the State of New York has followed suit, issuing its own alert to the state’s preparers.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance says it’s joining the IRS effort to prevent preparers and their clients from being targeted by scammers and hackers.
“Preventing cybercrimes is an ongoing battle because the criminals adapt their tactics as the technology improves,” said New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Jerry Boone. “According to the IRS, brazen scam artists will remotely access a tax preparer’s computer to obtain vital taxpayer data or may simply try to steal paper tax records.”
Boone’s statement adds that his agency has created a team to analyze questionable refunds and uncover tax fraud schemes. “We will continue to employ all available resources to help educate and protect tax preparers and their clients,” Boone said.
By law, tax preparers must have safeguards in place to ensure taxpayer data doesn’t get into the hands of scammers or thieves. The New York tax authorities say the basic security steps are pretty simple:
- Protect your computer– Ensure that your computer is secure when accessing taxpayer information online by looking for “https,” with an “s” for secure, in the website address. Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password, and never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.
- Use strong passwords– Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols when creating a new password. Don’t use your name, birth date, or common words. Use a different password for each of your accounts and change them frequently.
- Properly dispose of private information– Shred documents to destroy sensitive information. Never toss personal or financial documents in the trash without shredding them first.
The IRS has issued a complete security checkup in their fact sheet, Tax Professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.
According to the New York press release, professional tax preparers file 70 percent of all personal returns and 90 percent of all corporate tax returns in New York State.
The New York State Tax Department claims it has stopped more than 330,000 suspicious personal income tax refunds, saving the state’s taxpayers nearly $500 million.