As originally announced on The Wall Street Journal website, 6 out of 13 IRS-approved tax preparers failed cybersecurity tests in an audit commissioned by the nonprofit organization Online Trust Alliance (OTA).
Utilizing OTA’s 2016 Online Trust Audit methodology, alongside the IRS’s security mandates, the report revealed that nearly half of all online tax-preparation and filing services, whom had contractual agreements with the Internal Revenue Service, were unable to properly provide protection of customers’ privacy and security. Several of the larger corporations that failed to provide appropriate customer protection were Jackson Hewitt and Free1040TaxReturn.com. While TurboTax, H&R Block, and several others were named to an “Honor Roll” by the nonprofit.
Customer privacy and protection should naturally be at the top of every tax preparers list, and it is indeed a shocking revelation that so many IRS sanctioned companies were inadequately prepared for this responsibility.
But here at Gonzalez & Arrambide, Inc. customer protection is sought 100% of the time. Our highly experienced CPA’s recognize that the security of your financial documentation and information is a reasonable customer expectancy, and so our offices utilize the best practices to safeguard from hackers.
By keeping up-to-date on all vital national accounting information, our office is better prepared to serve you.
This includes following the effects of the OTA audit.
On July 6th, the IRS initiated its newest campaign intent on making tax-preparers more aware of the security risks that can lead to identity theft and tax fraud.
This public awareness campaign comes at the heels of June’s IRS Security Summit, in which IRS leaders met with representatives of leading tax preparation chains, software companies, and state tax authorities. During the assembly, the IRS released a fact sheet that set about some standards and methodologies by which to improve data security.
The “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaign implored businesses and firms to follow a number of critical steps to safeguard taxpayer data including, but not limited to:
- Requiring stronger passwords on all tax software programs
- Storage of taxpayer data in secure systems and data encryption
- Improving security requirements for personnel working with taxpayer data
- Creating a plan about the required steps when notifying of a breach
- Completing risk assessments to identify potential system weaknesses
This attempt to simultaneously warn and help tax preparers is an essential element to curb the efforts of cyber criminals, as even the IRS themselves have been victims of hackers in the past. By improving their own cyber defenses and tax refund filters, the federal agency hopes to further enhance the security measures that tax preparation companies and software agencies should have in place for the 2017 tax season – essentially doubling up against cyber criminals.
Alongside this campaign, Gonzalez & Arrambide, Inc. urges all taxpayers to remain vigilant with their personal information and tax data as well.
A few tips include:
- Using security software with firewall and antivirus protection
- Encrypting sensitive personal and tax files on your computer
- Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails
- Not carrying your Social Security card on you
- Being aware of thieves calling and posing as the IRS
- Remembering that the IRS does not initiate contact with you through email, text messages, or social media
At Gonzalez & Arrambide, Inc. the security of our clients’ personal data is of utmost importance. By keeping track of current trends and remaining guarded against cyber attacks, we aim to continue to provide the stress-free tax services that we are highly recognized for. Whether during tax season, or for any other financial purpose, our CPAs can offer you quality support and protection.
Give us a call today at (956) 447-9009 and let Gonzalez & Arrambide, Inc. serve you.