IRS Advises Tax Preparers to Scan Their Computers for Malware
Washington, D.C. (January 21, 2016)
By Michael Cohn
The Internal Revenue Service is urging all tax preparers to do a thorough security scan of their computer drives and devices in case there is any malware lurking. Click here to sign up for Tax Pro Today's eNewsletter to get the latest news and behind the scenes commentary you won't find anywhere else. The IRS said Thursday it is seeing multiple email phishing scams this year—some posing as the IRS—targeting tax preparers. These scams are designed to steal sensitive information—either the preparers’ passwords for IRS accounts or sensitive taxpayer data stored on computers.The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure taxpayers and preparers understand the dangers to their personal and financial data in a public awareness campaign dubbed "Taxes. Security. Together." The IRS recommends all tax preparers take the following steps immediately:1. Ensure that you and your employees have robust security software that helps block malware and viruses and that it remains turn on and active at all times.2. Use the “deep scan” function to fully scour all computer drives and files for any malware or viruses. These bugs can hide in places that a “quick scan” does not search. Perform a deep scan periodically.3. Ensure that your security software updates automatically so that it is always up-to-date and on-guard against new and emerging malware and viruses.4. Review the security plan for your office and operations. If you do not have a security plan, review a checklist suggested by Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data.5. Educate your employees about the dangers of phishing malware, emails and other scams that could lead to malware/virus infections. One phishing email can result in all office computers being hacked for sensitive data.The IRS pointed out that ensuring that your computer is free of malware such as viruses will help prevent the spread of infections during the filing season when you are in contact with clients and others.The IRS, states and tax industry have issued a series of Security Awareness Tax Tips for taxpayers. They also urge all tax preparers to share security awareness tips with taxpayers throughout the filing season. Preparers can print and share Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to help clients take additional steps to protect their personal, financial and tax data online and at home.