The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) took another step in its efforts to help tax practitioners avoid data theft. The agency recently released a publication noting tax practitioners could be unaware that they are victims of data theft. This is because the individuals behind these thefts often leave little behind. As a result, the client may become a victim before the tax practitioner is aware of the theft.
Practitioners can take steps to protect themselves. This includes proactively reviewing the practice for any signs of data theft.
Are there signs of data theft? The IRS has found some common signs that may go otherwise unnoticed. Tax practitioners can watch for the following to increase the chances that they can address a data theft situation early in the process:
- Moving cursors. The IRS has stated that remote access to tax practitioners’ computers is not uncommon. In some cases, this can result in a cursor moving across a computer screen or numbers changing when not controlled by the user.
- Mysterious email response. Carefully read emails from clients. Another common tactic to steal data involves sending emails to clients. This can lead to client response to emails that were not sent from your office.
- Computer and network issues. Suddenly locked computers or slow networks may signal more than just a basic tech issue. These problems could be another sign your client information is subject to theft.
Additional signs include getting refunds without finishing filings and getting a taxpayer authentication letter prior to filing returns.
What if I receive notice from the IRS? It is important to take any notice from the IRS seriously. It is generally wise to seek legal counsel if the correspondence is a notification of an investigation or other concern.