The IRS and its state and industry Security Summit partners warned tax practitioners to beware of phishing emails posing as state accounting and professional associations.
The IRS has received reports from tax professionals who received fake emails that tried to trick them into disclosing email usernames and passwords.
Tax professionals in North Carolina, New Jersey, Iowa and Illinois were specifically targeted by the cybercriminals. The IRS also received reports about a Canadian accounting association.
The awkwardly worded phishing email states:
“We kindly request that you follow this link HERE and sign in with your email to view this information from [name of accounting association] to all active members. This announcement has been updated for your kind information through our secure information sharing portal which is linked to your email server.”
The South Carolina Association of CPAs urges any members who receive suspicious correspondence to never open any of the links or attachments. If you have concerns about the security of your SCACPA account, or if you have any questions about logins and registration, call the SCACPA office at 803.791.4181.
Tax practitioners who receive suspicious emails related to taxes or the IRS, or phishing attempts to gain access to practitioner databases, should forward those emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This scam serves as a reminder to all tax professionals that cybercriminals are targeting their offices in an attempt to steal client data.
To assist with safeguards, the Security Summit partners urge practitioners to follow these minimal security steps:
- Learn to recognize phishing emails, especially those pretending to be from the IRS, e-Services, a tax software provider or cloud storage provider. Never open a link or any attachment from a suspicious email. Remember: The IRS never initiates initial contact with a tax pro via email.
- Create a data security plan using IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals, by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- Review internal controls:
- Install anti-malware/anti-virus security software on all devices (laptops, desktops, routers, tablets and phones) and keep software set to automatically update.
- Create passwords of at least eight characters; longer is better. Use different passwords for each account, use special and alphanumeric characters and phrases. Password protect wireless devices and consider a password manager program.
- Encrypt all sensitive files/emails and use strong password protections.
- Back up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to a network.
- Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives and printers that contain sensitive data.
- Limit access to taxpayer data to individuals who need to know.
- Check IRS e-Services account weekly for number of returns filed with EFIN.
- Report any data theft or data loss to the appropriate IRS Stakeholder Liaison.
- Stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals, Quick Alerts and Social Media.
- Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance
- Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals
- Protect Client Data; Learn Signs of Identity Theft
- Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself
- Security Summit
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