During a recent Washington Tax Brief, one topic was how social media is assisting in identity theft. Criminals can get 1,000 Social Security Numbers over the internet for only $500. That means you are basically worth about $0.50 to a thief–that is, until they get your personal information to create consistent patterns. This peripheral information on social media opens up pieces of your life to be discovered by cyber criminals and comes about when you receive or post those “happy birthday!” and “happy anniversary!” comments, post pictures of your dog Flora, and your child Jane, share family genealogy (your mother’s maiden name), talk about your employer or your position, and provide addresses or pictures of your home. Criminals are smart. They can pull together your history, and likely your passwords, from the information they gather.
Within the last three years, even the IRS E-Services has had breaches in their transcript service, their e-file PIN Services, and their IP PIN Recovery Services. More recently, employers and tax professionals are being targeted for information gathering, looking for names associated with addresses and income. One Human Resource employee of a large corporation released over 10,000 employee records as requested in an email, including their own.
If ever you feel you have been exposed to fraud, receive a notice from any governing agency, or are asked for employee information for your business, immediately contact your CPA. Do not contact the agency or perpetrator yourself, as this gives them more information about you, such as your telephone number. Explain to your CPA the situation and your concerns, and let them instruct you on whom to contact. If it is regarding taxes, allow your CPA to follow up on the notice for you.
We know you are always cautioned of fraudulent possibilities, but you can never be too informed. Always know you will not receive an unexpected telephone call from the IRS, especially one threatening you in any way. You also should never give any information to anyone, even if you are somewhat confident in what they say or are asking is true. Recently, I had to prove my identity when I contacted a client for tax information. No offense taken–in fact, I was proud!
- Written by Pamela Smitson, CPA Worley Erhart-Graves Financial Advisors