If you operate a business, how you handle personal information can affect whether your customers, employees, and yes, even your business, are at risk of identity theft during tax season and all through the year.
On Thursday, February 1, at 1 p.m. EST, experts from the FTC and IRS will host a free, one-hour webinar, Protecting Sensitive Business & Customer Data: Practical Identity Safety Practices. We’ll discuss identity theft, imposter scams that target businesses, and data security and data breach response, all with an eye to what you can do to protect your business and the people your business impacts.
The event is one of several free webinars and Twitter chats that the FTC and its partners are hosting as part of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, January 29-February 2. Our other events feature experts from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the AARP Fraud Watch Network, and the Identity Theft Resource Center. Visit ftc.gov/taxidentitytheft for details and to learn how to participate.
What is tax identity theft? It usually refers to the fraudulent use of someone’s Social Security number (SSN) to either file a tax return and claim the victim’s refund, or to earn wages and that are reported as the victim’s income, leaving the victim with the tax bill. Businesses are involved when cyber criminals try to access their customer and employee files to steal SSNs, banking information and more. Cyber criminals also use stolen Employer Identification Numbers to submit false income and withholding documents to the IRS and receive fraudulent tax refunds.
The FTC receives complaints from individuals about tax identity theft, and there has been encouraging news. Last year, 22% of the identity theft complaints to the FTC concerned tax identity theft, falling from 33% in 2016. Total identity theft complaints to the FTC also were down, dropping to 371,157 complaints in 2017, from 399,223 in 2016. It was the second year in a row that identity theft complaints to the FTC declined.
There also was encouraging news about IRS imposters — the scam callers who say they’re from the IRS and threaten you’ll be arrested or fined unless you pay them immediately for supposed past-due taxes. We received 56,065 complaints about IRS imposters last year, down a whopping 54% from 2016.
We’ll have to wait to see if the declines turn into long-term trends. In the meantime, you can be sure of this: the more you know about tax identity theft and IRS imposter scams, the better your chance of avoiding them. We hope you’ll join us for a free Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week event, and that you encourage your employees and customers to do the same.