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Staying Safe Online During Tax Season: Tips for Businesses and Consumers

During tax season, businesses and consumers alike must be on high alert for potential online fraud and scams. Cybercriminals often take advantage of this time to launch sophisticated phishing scams and identity theft attempts. Seth Blank, CTO of Valimail, emphasizes the need for caution: "As we navigate this tax season, I want to stress the importance of vigilance against the sophisticated phishing scams and identity theft attempts that are unfortunately all too common. We must, therefore, treat every communication with a level of distrust. This is especially true of anyone claiming to be from the IRS or a similar entity. I urge everyone to adopt a verify-first approach, ensuring the legitimacy of any tax-related correspondence before engaging. You are protecting not only your own organization’s personal information and financial integrity but also that of your customers. This vigilance is not just a ‘best practice’ anymore — it demonstrates an indisputable level of conscientiousness to the protection and privacy of your organization and its stakeholders.”

To help businesses and consumers stay safe online during tax season, here are some practical tips:

  1. Beware of Phishing Emails: Cybercriminals often use phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS or tax software companies. Always verify the sender's email address and avoid clicking on suspicious links or attachments.

  2. Use Strong Passwords: Ensure that your accounts, especially those related to tax filing and financial information, are protected with strong, unique passwords.

  3. Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication on your accounts for an added layer of security.

  4. Keep Software Updated: Regularly update your operating system, antivirus software, and other applications to protect against the latest threats.

  5. Secure Your Wi-Fi Network: If you're filing taxes or accessing sensitive information from home, make sure your Wi-Fi network is secure and password-protected.

  6. Monitor Your Accounts: Regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions.

  7. Educate Employees: If you're a business owner, educate your employees about the risks of tax season scams and how to recognize them.

  8. Verify Tax Preparers: If you're using a tax preparer, verify their credentials and ensure they have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

By adopting these precautions and maintaining a verify-first approach as advised by Seth Blank, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to online scams during tax season. It's crucial to protect your personal information and financial integrity, as well as that of your customers and stakeholders.

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