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IRS to Mount Epic Cyber-Safety Campaign

America's Internal Revenue Service is to launch a large-scale cyber-safety campaign to coincide with the busiest shopping period of the year.

According to the website Accountingtoday.com, the campaign by the IRS will begin on the Monday after Thanksgiving, commonly known to bargain hunters as Cyber Monday. 

"The campaign will emphasize to practitioners and taxpayers the potential dangers they face during the holiday shopping season and the filing season ahead," said Stephen Mankowski, national tax chair of the National Conference of CPA Practitioners.

"National Tax Security Awareness Week 2019 is slated to begin on Cyber Monday and run from December 2 through December 6," he continued. "This is the heaviest period of time when people are online and when phishing is most common."

YouTube videos will form a key part of the campaign, which will strongly urge taxpayers to only make purchases from known vendors and to regularly check their bank statements for any suspicious activity. 

Mankowski said that continued widespread ignorance of security best practices had been flagged as a concern during a recent meeting he attended with government officials in Washington, DC.

"During the recent Tax Forums, the IRS noted that a lot of people still are not aware of the basics of data security," he said. "The IRS has been making some headway, but much more is needed."

The news follows last month's efforts by the IRS to raise cybersecurity awareness within families as part of National Work and Family Month. 

On October 22, the IRS urged families and teens to stay vigilant in protecting personal information while connected to the internet. 

An IRS spokesperson wrote: "During National Work and Family Month, IRS is asking parents and families to be mindful of all the pitfalls that can be found by sharing devices at home, shopping online and through navigating various social media platforms. Often, those who are less experienced can put themselves and others at risk by leaving an unnecessary trail of personal information for fraudsters."

Cybersecurity "common-sense suggestions" shared by the IRS on their website include advice to always use a virtual private network when connecting to public Wi-Fi, a recommendation to encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers, and an admonition not to share personal information such as birthdate, address, age, and Social Security numbers online.

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