Tax season isn’t my favorite time of the year, but for identity thieves determined to grab a tax refund in your name, it is Christmas all over again. By filing fraudulent tax returns, they can not only falsify your return or the returns of your clients, but also they can prevent honest citizens from being able to file their legitimate tax returns on time, leaving them each with an identity theft mess to clean up, while the thieves make off with thousands of dollars in refunds.
Tax refund fraud in the U.S. is expected to top $21 billion dollars this season. Thankfully many people are taking precautions: they are safeguarding their Social Security numbers by not responding to phishing emails or texts, and treating attachments from unknown senders with great caution; and shredding any unneeded documents rather than just putting them into the trash. However a group that remains at high risk is middle income families who use tax specialists to handle their tax affairs. Studies from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and others indicate that a large proportion of financial professionals of all kinds continue to send and receive documents containing Non-public Personal Information (NPI) via insecure email, thus exposing their clients’ most precious family and financial information to the public Internet. Whereas in the past, families would go to the office of their tax professional bringing all their documents in paper form, these days we have become used to using email to exchange documents. Using traditional email is like sending a postcard through the mail — anyone can read it en route. Let’s face it, a criminal could open your mailbox, read the postcard and then return it to the mailbox and you would never know; and it is the same with unsecured email.
This is why I say to tax professionals that a prerequisite for being in your business is to protect your clients’ tax information. And unless you wish to go bankrupt by paying for client documents to be couriered back and forth, you need to have a secure, easy-to-use email encryption solution. One that keeps all email data safe, but is easy for your clients to use; both to receive emails from you – knowing they are from you – and to send emails and attachments to you.
At Zix, we understand you and your staff don’t have the time to deal with complicated encryption, so we take care of it for you. Your emails are scanned automatically and any email containing NPI is automatically encrypted in the background. If the email goes to a recipient in the Zix community, the email is sent transparently – no passwords or extra steps. If the recipient doesn’t regularly use Zix, an automatically generated email is sent to your client with a Web link to click on, with simple instructions on how to see your protected email, and how to download the secure documents. All through a branded portal tailored to your business and for your clientele. When your clients know you are protecting their data, they are far more likely to keep coming back to you, year after year, at tax time.
Tax preparation professionals still have the luxury of being respected and trusted by their clients. Let’s deserve that trust by protecting them with modern email encryption.