Pell Center holds cybersecurity forum for tax preparers virtually due to COVID-19

NEWPORT – The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University is holding its IRS Nationwide Tax Forum virtually this year due to coronavirus concerns.

The cybersecurity awareness training for tax-preparation professionals has been offered virtually as of July 28, according to Pell Center officials.

It’s the third consecutive year for the training, part of a three-year, $130,000 grant from the American Coalition for Taxpayer Rights to provide tax preparers with awareness about cybersecurity.

According to the Pell Center newsletter, Pell Center Senior Fellow for Cyber Leadership Francesca Spidalieri and Linn Freedman, chair of the Data Privacy & Cybersecurity Team and a partner at Robinson+Cole, developed the material to help sensitize tax-preparation professionals to the most common cyberthreats and vulnerabilities in the industry. The session offers strategies and tools to prevent data theft and lessen the likelihood of businesses being impacted by cybercrimes.

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“Attackers are taking advantage of our increased reliance on digital tools and broader exposure to cyber-risks to ramp up schemes to defraud businesses,” said Spidalieri in a statement. “As cyber criminals continue to evolve their tactics and target individual tax-preparation professionals and other [small- to medium-sized businesses] in the tax industry – often considered the ‘low-hanging fruit’ – the training we offer is more important than ever.”

Freeman calls tax preparers’ client information, such as Social Security numbers and health insurance records, “a virtual gold mine in the wrong hands.”

The virtual trainings for tax preparers can be found on the Pell Center’s IRS Cybersecurity for Tax Professionals page.

The Pell Center is a multidisciplinary research center on the campus of Salve Regina University in Newport.

American Coalition for Taxpayer Rights was formed in 2011 by retail tax-preparation and tax-software companies and financial institutions to advocate for taxpayer rights. The organization is based in Washington, D.C.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributor.