Did you know? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received about 3.2 million identity theft and fraud report in 2019 alone? According to The Consumer Sentinel Network, maintained by the FTC, 1.7 million of these reports were fraud-related, 900,000 about other consumer complaints while about 651,000 were identity theft complaints.
The more petrifying part is that these numbers are on the increase. We cannot claim that internet penetration is not helping businesses to operate with better ease, convenience and speed. But the ripple effect of this gain is seen in the increasing number of fraud cases originating from the cyberspace.
Every year, thousands of American citizens are faced with identity theft issues. Many have lost their prized possessions, others their businesses while some face life-threatening debts as a result of identity theft. Reports have shown that these identity theft reports are the highest during the tax season.
The tax season is the best time for criminals to attack seeing that tons of persons are either filling out their personal information online or filing their tax return via mail. This tax returns window affords criminals the platform to steal identities for their criminal gains. Businesses are not excluded from these attacks, but below are 3 tips that can protect your business from identity theft when filing your taxes.
Get familiar with the facts
You cannot successfully fight an enemy that is more knowledgeable than you are. That would be tantamount to fighting in the dark. The first thing you need to do is get familiar with the facts.
As you already know, tax returns are compulsory for all legal entities – individuals and businesses alike. With the option of filing taxes online, it is easy for criminals to hijack identities. Make no mistake, businesses are not excluded from identity attacks of this sort.
You should also know that many of the computer systems used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have not yet been modernized to match best practices in cybersecurity. The size of the IRS is easily an excuse for this.
What does this mean for you and your business? Your security and that of your data is your responsibility. You must therefore do all within your power to ensure the safety of your data. Never depend on the security apparatus of the IRS for the safety of your data. Cybercriminals are looking for low-hanging fruits to milk, do all you can to avoid falling victim.
Apply caution with emails
Many cybercrime cases emanate from the use of emails. A simple click on a link in your inbox can lead to a lifetime of regrets. As a thriving business, you cannot afford not to use emails, but you must ensure strict compliance with emailing best practices.
You need to be aware that cybercriminals send random emails to individuals and businesses pretending to be the IRS. This is especially true during the tax season. These criminals achieve their aims by sending unsolicited emails requesting personal or business information.
The IRS would never request for your sensitive information using random domains or unsolicited emails. On no account should you click on links or download attachments from such emails.
One way to identify emails from criminals is when you get an unbelievable promise of a bigger or faster refund. The average refund times are the same across the board, it’s three weeks for electronically filed returns and six weeks for mailed copies.
Should you receive any such unsolicited email, quickly forward to [email protected]
Protect your data using VPNs
No criminal would be able to track your digital footprint if they don’t know where you are accessing the internet from or what you are doing. As with your emails, you cannot do without access to the internet. The internet allows you to trade and interact with the world of business around you.
Your business needs the internet and filing your tax returns online is convenient. It is advisable to exercise extra caution by using only secured websites identifiable with the HTTPS prefix.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to access the internet securely and remotely. VPNs secure your connection from any form of tracking, making it impossible for cybercriminals to access your data when you are filing your tax.
In this report on VPN usage in the second wave of COVID-19, Switcherry VPN experts analysed different kinds of data and found out that even ordinary users and companies have finally started to realize that it is mandatory to have a VPN for both safe working and other web activities.
Fulfilling your statutory responsibility shouldn’t be a thing to dread, neither should doing it conveniently on the internet.
According to the Tax Identity Theft Awareness release by the FTC, tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. Affected persons and businesses may not find out until their real tax return filing is rejected by the IRS on account of duplicate filing.
Added to the tips shared in this post, ensure you use strong passwords for your accounts and avoid divulging your personal information randomly.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes