The Internal Revenue Service is launching a new campaign with the Iowa Department of Revenue and the state’s private sector tax industry to nudge Iowans into taking more precautions with their sensitive financial information.
Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the IRS in Iowa, says identity thieves are becoming more sophisticated all the time and taxpayers need to keep up or they may become victims.
“We want to encourage people when they file their taxes at home and whenever they’re working with personal information at home, to use security software to protect their computers,” Miller says. “That includes firewalls and anti-virus protection.” Authorities say ID thieves are using personal data from real taxpayers to create fake state and federal tax returns to claim real refunds.
Miller says Iowans have to be on guard for crooks who are trolling to rip you off using telephone and email “phishing” cons. “If you get a call from someone posing as an IRS agent and they threaten you with jail or lawsuits, it’s a scam, hang up,” Miller says. “We also want to encourage people to protect their personal information. Do not routinely carry your Social Security number.” Also, oversharing on social media gives identity thieves even more personal details.
The new IRS campaign is called “Taxes. Security. Together.” and it aims to raise public awareness that even routine actions on the Internet and with personal electronic devices can affect the safety of financial and tax data. “Your tax returns are sensitive data so you have to treat that information just like you would cash, don’t leave it laying around,” Miller says. “Properly dispose of old tax returns and other sensitive documents by shredding them before you put them in the trash.”
The campaign includes several components, including YouTube videos, consumer-friendly Tax Tips each week and local events. Several IRS publications are being added or updated to help taxpayers and tax professionals at IRS.gov, state web sites and platforms used by the tax preparation community.
The campaign will continue through the April tax deadline.