Tax Preparers Beware: Cybercriminals Targeting Taxpayer Data

NYS Tax Department joins the IRS to warn preparers of security risks; offers tips to safeguard sensitive taxpayer information

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance joined the IRS to warn tax preparers of the potential security risks posed by scammers. This joint effort is aimed at preventing preparers and their clients from being targeted and victimized by cybercriminals.

Con artists will seek out any opening or security flaw to poach sensitive client data—social security numbers, business records, and income information included—from unsuspecting tax professionals.

“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. By probing each return to detect anomalies and creating a team dedicated to uncovering tax schemes and questionable refunds, New York State remains at the forefront of this fight against cybercrimes. We will continue to employ all available resources to help educate and protect tax preparers and their clients.”

By law, tax preparers must have safeguards in place to ensure that sensitive data doesn’t fall into the hands of scammers or those without proper authorization. To review those procedures, please refer to the IRS Fact Sheet Tax Professionals: Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.

In addition, by following these simple security measures, tax preparers can be confident that their clients’ information is protected:

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.

Protecting taxpayers

Tax preparers play a critical role in protecting taxpayer information, filing 70% of all personal and 90% of all corporate tax returns in New York State. As data breaches increase, so too does the potential for private information to be used to file fraudulent tax returns or steal someone’s identity.

The New York State Tax Department works continuously to detect and prevent fraud. So far this year, the agency has stopped more than 330,000 suspicious personal income tax refunds, saving taxpayers nearly $500 million.

If you believe that you’ve been contacted by someone attempting a scam, or you or a client has been the victim of fraud or identity theft, visit the Tax Department’s Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage to learn how to report it. The Tax Department takes this type of illegal activity seriously, promptly reviews each complaint, and takes corrective action when appropriate.