Professionals must protect EFINs, PTINs and CAF numbers

The IRS is urging tax professionals to maintain and protect EFINs, and to monitor EFINs, PTINs and CAF numbers. The IRS and the Security Summit partners warned tax professionals that savvy cybercriminals target IRS-issued identification numbers to help impersonate practitioners as well as taxpayers. To help protect against this threat used on the Dark Web, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry reminded practitioners that they must maintain, monitor and protect their Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs) as well as keep tabs on their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs) and Centralized Authorization File (CAF) numbers.

Protecting EFINs

According to the IRS, the same good security habits for protecting client data also can protect the EFIN. Those include the use of strong anti-virus software, strong and unique passwords, and two-factor authentication where available. Other tips include:

  • Learning to recognize and avoid phishing scams; do not open links or attachments from suspicious emails, most data thefts begin with a phishing email.
  • Securing all devices with security software and let it automatically update.
  • Using strong passwords of eight or more mixed characters; use phrases that are easily remembered and password protect all wireless devices.
  • Encrypting all sensitive files/emails and use strong password protections.
  • Backing up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected full-time to the network.
  • Wiping clean or destroying old computer hard drives that contain sensitive data.

In addition to these steps, the Security Summit reminds all professional tax preparers that they must have a written data security plan as required by the Federal Trade Commission and its Safeguards Rule. They can get help with security recommendations by reviewing the recently revised IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security: the Fundamentals by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. (IRS News Release IR-2018-164, August 14, 2018.)

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