HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is reminding taxpayers of the steps they can take to protect their personal and tax data and prevent refund fraud, echoing an appeal made today by the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C.
"The Department of Revenue is working with the Internal Revenue Service and the private-sector tax industry this year to create new safeguards for 2016," said Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty. "We want to reduce the risk of cybercriminals using stolen data to file fraudulent tax returns."
Steps taxpayers can take include:
- Use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use automatic updates. Encrypt your tax returns and other sensitive data. Use strong passwords.
- Beware of phishing emails purporting to be from your financial institution or a tax software company. A link may take you to a fake website that is designed to steal your log-on information. The attachment you open may include a program that allows a cyber-thief to get access to sensitive files on your computer.
- Beware of phone scams from criminals posing as trusted organizations. If you get a call from an aggressive or belligerent person who says you will be sued or jailed if you don't make an immediate payment, that person is a fraud. The Department of Revenue will have sent you many letters before you ever receive a phone call, and even then the call will only discuss your payment options. If you need to make sure a call is legitimate, you can always just hang up and then call the Department of Revenue directly at 717-787-8201.
- Shred your old tax returns and documents with your name, address, bank account numbers and credit card information.
- Check your credit reports and Social Security Administration accounts regularly.
- Know your tax preparer. If you like to file your return online, start at www.revenue.pa.gov or at IRS.gov. If you like to file using installed software, buy your software from a trusted retailer, or by going directly (not clicking a link) to your preferred software company's website. If you use an accountant, make sure it's someone you know will be available after the filing deadline date. Do not let any preparer take your refund and then pay you directly.
- Expect to see new questions, lockout features and password requirements for logging in to tax preparation products. These new features are in place for your protection, and the requirements are in place for every single tax preparation company.
Tax preparation businesses also can help by sharing information with clients. Tips for customers are available in a new Internal Revenue Service publication, Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers. And, the IRS created a new resource page at www.irs.gov/taxessecuritytogether.
Last month the Security Summit – the public-private collaboration that is tackling the problem from all three sides – revealed some of the dozens of changes and new programs that will be in place for the 2016 filing season.
Many of these new safeguards are invisible to taxpayers but will help the states and IRS verify the identity of the taxpayer and the validity of the tax return. There are new password standards for tax software. And, the IRS, the states and the industry are sharing more information about identity theft schemes. (See IRS Fact Sheet 2015-23 for details.)
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue also offers tips on preventing identity fraud on its website at www.revenue.pa.gov. From the left-side menu, select "Get Assistance", then "ID Theft Prevention and Victim Assistance."
MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Miller or Maia Warren, 717-787-6960
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Revenue