Be Careful About Cyber Security

Be Careful About Cyber Security

Be Careful About Cyber Security

Be Careful About Cyber Security

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax community, partners in the Security Summit, marked “National Tax Security Awareness Week”, Nov. 27-Dec. 1, with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. Cybercriminals seek to turn stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new credit accounts or even using stolen identities to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund.

The Internal Revenue Service offers seven steps to help with online safety and protecting tax returns and refunds in 2018:

  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites using the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL are secure. Look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar. However, even bad actors may obtain a security certificate so the “s” may not vouch for the site’s legitimacy.
  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Do not engage in online financial transactions if using unprotected public Wi-Fi.  Beware purchases at unfamiliar sites or clicks on links from pop-up ads. Unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots also may allow thieves to view transactions.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails that pose as a trusted source such as those from financial institutions or the IRS. The criminal’s goal is to entice users to open a link or attachment. These emails may suggest a password is expiring or an account update is needed. The link may take users to a fake website that will steal usernames and passwords. An attachment may download malware that tracks keystrokes.
  • Keep a clean machine. This applies to all devices – computers, phones and tablets. Avoid “free” security scans or pop-up advertisements for security software.  Use security software to protect against malware that may steal data and viruses that may damage files. Set it to update automatically so that it always has the latest security defenses. Make sure firewalls and browser defenses are always active.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Use a password manager, if necessary.  Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters but longer is better. Avoid using a specific word; longer phrases are better. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Use a different password for each account.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. Some financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow users to set accounts for multi-factor authentication, meaning users may need a security code, usually sent as a text to a mobile phone, in addition to usernames and passwords. For added protection, some financial institutions also will send email or text alerts when there is a withdrawal or change to the account. Generally, users can check account profiles at these locations to see what added protections may be available.
  • Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. If keeping financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on computers, this data should be encrypted and protected by a strong password. Also, back-up important data to an external source such as an external hard drive. And, when disposing of computers, mobile phones or tablets, make sure to wipe the hard drive of all information before trashing.

The experts at Palm Beach Tax Service can elaborate on these steps based on their own experience and knowledge.  They can also help you prepare for tax season through Lantana bookkeeper services, Palm Beach bookkeeping and Lake Worth bookkeeper work. Call today to protect your safety and security.

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