IRS offers identity theft prevention tips

IRS provides tips to protect yourself from hackers while online shopping

KENNER, LA (WVUE) - While many are getting ready to do their holiday shopping online, the IRS is giving some tips to prevent identity theft from scammers.

"The risk is greater than anyone ever imagined. We need to accept this fact and understand how to protect against cyber attacks," Chair of Louisiana Society CPA's Gina Rachel said.

While many are shopping for gifts during the holiday season, scammers are out looking for identities and information to steal.

"They need to be extra vigilant during the holiday season. There's a lot of online shopping, people are using their computers, and they need to make sure that they are protected at all times," IRS Spokesperson Dee Stepter said.

"Every organization is at risk for cyber attacks. Forty-nine percent of businesses have been attacked, and the other 51 percent have risk of being attacked," Rachel said.

IRS said cybercriminals turn stolen data into cash by using credit cards, creating new credit accounts, or filing fraudulent tax returns.

"The biggest threat today for cyber security is Ransomware, which locks up your system data and holds it for ransom. You should back up your data regularly, and make sure the back up is secure. Have an inventory list of all your data and systems," Rachel said.

People should also keep an eye out for suspicious emails.

"Attackers send fake emails requesting information. I personally get these emails all the time. Be aware of fake links and attachments that contain viruses," Rachel said.

Better Business Bureau President Michael Cook said hackers also cost the economy.

"In 2016, BBB received approximately 6,500 scam tracker scam reports from consumers regarding con artists claiming to be with the IRS," Cook said.

He said marketplace scams affects one in four households each year at an estimated loss of $50 million.

Cook said a red flag is unsolicited contact demanding immediate payment through intimidation.

One way to check if your information was stolen is by monitoring your credit report.

"The sooner you can figure out that you are the victim of identity theft, the sooner  you can work on it, and the sooner we can put a stop to it," Sgt. Stanley Brown with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office said.

IRS advises for those who plan on doing their holiday shopping online to stick with familiar sites and use software that scans for viruses.

The agency said it's been seeing fewer fraudulent tax returns as a result of safeguards put into place.

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