"The IRS works year-round to protect taxpayers against scams and identity theft," said John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner. "But we can't do this alone. Taxpayers can do their part by taking certain precautions to stay ahead of these would-be con artists."
Avoid Phishing Scams
The easiest way for criminals to steal sensitive data is simply to ask for it. Treat personal information like cash – don't hand it out to just anyone.
Taxpayers should learn to recognize phishing emails, calls or texts that pose as familiar organizations such as banks, credit card companies or even the IRS. These ruses generally urge taxpayers to give up sensitive data such as passwords, Social Security numbers and bank account or credit card numbers.
Also, don't assume internet advertisements, pop-up ads or emails are from reputable companies. When online, a little research can save money and reduce security risks. If an ad or offer looks too good to be true, take a moment to check out the company behind it.
Protect Personal Data
Taxpayers should not carry Social Security cards with them or any documents that may include this number. Provide Social Security numbers only when necessary. Occasionally businesses will request it when it is not essential.
Only give information to trusted websites
Give personal information over encrypted websites only. Shopping or banking online should be done only on sites that use encryption. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for "https" at the beginning of the web address (the "s" stands for secure).
Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page. If any part of the session isn't encrypted, the entire account and the included financial information could be vulnerable. Look for "https" on every page of the site.
Use Security Software
Make sure you have security software installed on all of your devices that connect to the internet. Many computers come pre-installed with firewall and anti-virus protections. A good broad-based anti-malware program should provide protection from viruses, Trojans, spyware and adware.
And never download "security" software from a pop-up ad. A pervasive ploy is a pop-up ad that indicates it has detected a virus on the computer.
Always protect your personal information because social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal money or open new accounts.
Every time a taxpayer receives a request for personal information, they should think about whether the request is truly necessary. Scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy and legitimate.