As I sifted through my professional reading and reviewed the insights and updates posted by my peers within various tax groups on Facebook, I came upon an interesting discussion regarding an advertisement for Tax Preparers on eBay, so obviously, I had to investigate further...
Everyone that knows me, knows I'm cheap and I love finding good deals on eBay, but even I know when to pay 'retail prices'...
According to numerous the auctions I found on eBay, "the tax return will be completed by an authorized tax preparer. All you have to do is scan your information, answer tax organizer questions, review, sign, & mail your return to the IRS." And at these prices, how can you go wrong??
This got me thinking...
When you or drop off (mail or scan) your tax information to your preparer, do you understand the sensitivity of that information and who will have access to it?
Not all data breaches or computer hacks result in identity-theft-related tax fraud. Yes, there are a number of scams out there, and yes, it's possible that certain of your personal information has been compromised. There's not a week that goes by that we don't hear about some kind of breach - from Gmail to Equifax to Target. But it's important to understand that not every data breach results in identity theft, and not every identity theft is tax-related identity theft.
We already know about the various tax scams as well as the skimming devices that steal credit and debit card info that have been discovered in ATM's, gas pumps and restaurants. But have you considered the hiring practices within the office of your tax preparer? Are you confident that all staff members, including temporary employees, with access to your personal and information have passed a rigorous background check?
Once a hacker has your email, phone number, banking information and social security number, I suspect there's no limit as to the financial harm they're capable of.
One of the easiest ways to help protect yourself against this type of identity theft is by verifying the professional licensing of your CPA (or tax professional) and subsequently forming and maintaining a solid relationship with him or her. That relationship should offer you insight as to the value your CPA places on the security of your financial data, the procedures in place to protect your personal information, as well as their staffing and hiring practices.
Attaining a strong relationship or personally knowing the individuals with access to your data doesn't guarantee it's security, but its certainly a better option than becoming a victim because you forwarded your personal and financial information to someone you thought you could trust as a tax professional.
Additional information to protect your personal information can be found on our website www.strivetax.com/protect-your-personal-information.
Please call our office with any questions.