How to protect your private tax and financial data
Posted on March 5, 2019
This is the busy season for criminals who are looking to steal sensitive tax data and financial information from taxpayers.
Teipen Selanders Poynter & Ayres CPAs caution that it’s not just seniors that get caught up in tax data phishing schemes. Lots of scams are very sophisticated. And many scams use social media.
“All taxpayers should follow these important steps to protect themselves,” cautions Teipen CPA Mike Poynter:
Make sure your computer is secure:
- Use security software that updates automatically. Make certain that security includes a firewall, virus and malware protection, and file encryption for sensitive data.
- Treat personal information like cash. Keep it secure on line and in your home.
- Provide personal information only over encrypted and trusted websites, especially when working with a tax advisor.
- Use strong passwords and update them periodically.
Know the telltale signs of phishing and malware:
- Never respond to emails, texts or calls that appear to be from the IRS, tax companies and other well-known businesses. Always verify contact information about companies or agencies by going directly to their website.
- Be cautious of email attachments.
- Turn off the option to automatically download attachments.
- Download and install software only from known and trusted websites. If you are not sure – don’t open it.
Protect your personal information:
- Never carry a Social Security card in your wallet or other documents showing your Social Security number, bank information or passwords.
- Make sure your phone is locked and secure, should it be stolen.
- Be wary of sharing personal information on social media – such as past addresses, buying a new car, a new home, or mentioning dates you will be on vacation.
- Review your Social Security records for accuracy (on a secure site), yearly.
- Keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key.
- Safeguard electronic files by encrypting and properly disposing (Don’t keep boxes of old tax records in your office or file cabinet.)
- Shred tax preparation documents before trashing.
The number one thing you can do to protect yourself? “Be vigilant,” says Mike Poyter. “Don’t take any chances with your tax, bank, or Social Security info, passwords, or any other sensitive information, ever. All it takes is one misstep for a mountain of trouble.”