Tax season is here, so it’s more important than ever to protect your personal and financial information. Printed materials are susceptible to theft, and as more and more people are using the internet and mobile devices to help them file their taxes, there are online hackers to worry about too. Here are six simple but important ways you can protect your tax-related information this season.
- Don’t take the bait and get phished. You’ve probably heard of phishing – a hacker sending an email that looks just like a legitimate source but is actually fraudulent and used to collect your personal information. Phishing can occur to anyone when you least expect it. Learn how to identify several common, telltale signs that indicate you are not viewing a legitimate email. The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) can help you get smarter about phishing.
- Don’t get vished, either. Vishing means voice phishing, and it happens through a conversation on the phone. Always remember that the IRS does not call you on the phone to discuss your tax matters – they mail everything.
- Do not use public Wi-Fi networks. Order your latte, and enjoy it at home while doing your taxes, connected to your much more secure home Wi-Fi network.
- Use smart and secure passwords to access every single account. As you’re spending a lot more time than usual accessing your online financial and health care accounts, do yourself a favor and install a simple password management tool. This kind of tool will ensure that you can access each of your online accounts securely, through a simple and personal passphrase that only you know. A good password management tool will encourage you to have a different password for every site and even give you a security score to up your game.
- Read your credit card and bank statements. Your trusted financial institutions share these with you, in part, so you can track and record every transaction and payment. Let them do their jobs and inform you. While you are at it, confirm that your home address is correct, and pay attention to fraud alerts.
- Shred isn’t dead. Buy yourself an inexpensive shredder, turn it on, and insert every credit card statement, bank statement, and any other sensitive information. You might not think so, but dumpster diving still happens a lot!
Tax season is the most important time to reduce your risk of hacks and identify theft. Through these six steps, you can better protect your assets and secure your online activity.