Tax Pros: Remember to Safeguard EFINs | CWSEAPA PLLC
Tax professionals are prime targets for criminals who not only want to steal their client data, but also the tax professionals’ own data, like their electronic filing identification numbers. A criminal who breaches the data of just one tax professional can get their hands on the personal information of hundreds or even thousands of people.
December 20, 2021
Candace J. Dixon
One way for tax professionals to watch for suspicious activity is to check the activity on their EFIN. They can review it to see how many tax returns have been filed using their number. They should routinely verify the number of returns submitted using their EFIN through IRS e-Services; especially during tax filing season.
Practicing good security habits can also protect EFINs, including using strong anti-virus software, strong and unique passwords, and two-factor authentication whenever it is available.
While practicing prevention is important, so is the ability to recognize scams early on and follow all of the necessary steps if something does happen.
- Learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams — don’t open links or attachments from suspicious emails, as most data thefts begin with a phishing email.
- Secure all devices with security software and that automatically updates.
- Use strong passwords of eight or more mixed characters; use phrases that are easily remembered; and password protect all wireless devices.
- Encrypt all sensitive files and emails and use strong password protections.
- Backup sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to the network.
- Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives containing sensitive data.
Set up IRS e-services accounts correctly and use their features to help recognize fraud.
If tax professionals don’t have an account, they can visit e-Services on the IRS website and register for one.
Once they establish and log into their e-Services account, they should follow these five steps to verify the number of returns electronically filed with the IRS:
- Select their name
- In the left banner, select Application
- In the left banner, select e-file Application
- Select their name again
- Select EFIN Status
After the last step, the screen will show the number of returns filed based on return type. Preparers can see the number of returns the IRS received and match that number to their records. The IRS updates this information weekly. Tax preparers should contact the IRS e-help desk at 866–255–0654 if their records don’t match what they see in the system, and contact the IRS if they see anything else suspicious in their account.