Every year, cybercriminals use things like phishing emails and malware to steal sensitive taxpayer data. And while it’s important for individual taxpayers to protect themselves from identity thieves, it’s equally important for tax preparers to protect their clients’ sensitive data. Tax professionals are given an enormous amount of sensitive client data in order to prepare or plan their taxes. So it’s paramount that tax professionals use every possible method to protect against cybercriminal breaches. Wondering how you can protect your client data? Read on to learn the 8 simple steps you can take to protect client data.

1. Never Send or Receive Sensitive Data Through Personal Email Accounts

Keep your client data protected by never sending or receiving sensitive data through a personal email account. Always use a separate business email account and keep your business and personal email activity separate.

2. Protect Email Accounts

To protect your email accounts, always use strong passwords. Additionally, we recommend using two-factor email authentication whenever possible.

3. Protect Against Phishing Attempts With Anti-Phishing Software

Phishing is a very common data-theft strategy. Because phishing is so common, there are numerous anti-phishing tools you can use to protect against known types of phishing. We recommending choosing security software that comes with anti-phishing tools and installing anti-phishing toolbars to identify known phishing sites.

4. Protect Against Malware and Viruses

Another thing you should look for when choosing security software is protection against malware and viruses. Choose security software that offers strong (and continuously updated) protection against malware. Additionally, your security software should be able to automatically scan emails for viruses.

5. Be Wary of Attachments From Unknown Senders

Often, potential clients will reach out by email. And while legitimate potential clients will sometimes use email to make an initial connection, cybercriminals also often pose as potential clients in an attempt to get you to download a malicious attachment. Because of this, we recommend never opening an attachment from an unknown sender. If you believe someone who has sent you an attachment is a legitimate potential client, contact them by phone to confirm this before opening any attachments.

6. Protect Documents When Sending Digitally

If you must send a client a document via email, always protect that document. Use password protection and encryption to protect all documents sent digitally.

7. Do Not Engage With Suspicious Emails

If you receive an email that seems suspicious, do not engage with the email. Don’t respond to the email and, even more importantly, do not click any links or download any attachments in the suspicious email.

8. Notify the IRS of Any Suspected or Confirmed Scams

If you suspect that someone has made an attempt to access your client data, always report the attempt to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. Reporting tax-related scams to the IRS helps protect all tax preparers and all taxpayers. The IRS can pursue cybercriminals and make the public aware of any new or ongoing scams.