Scammers steal personal information and money from unsuspecting victims, predominantly during tax season. When it comes to sharing any of your personal information, be vigilant!
The easiest way for criminals to steal sensitive data is to simply ask for it; this is known as phishing. Phishing emails, calls or texts often pose as familiar organizations such as banks, credit card companies or even the IRS. They attempt to lure you into giving them personal information such as passwords, bank account numbers or credit card numbers. Don’t assume Internet advertisements, pop-up ads or emails are from reputable companies or even from someone you know. Oftentimes, scammers can compromise your contacts and make it look like someone you know is asking you to download an attachment. If something seems suspicious, send your contact a direct email asking them if they sent you such an email before downloading anything. Also, remember that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media channels to request personal or financial information.
Only provide personal information over reputable, encrypted websites; this includes shopping or banking sites. Look for an “https” at the beginning of a web address and be sure it’s on every page of the site.
We all have too many passwords to count; however, strong passwords are a major barrier in protecting your personal information. Use at least 10 characters and mix letters, numbers and special characters. Make passwords arbitrary; don’t use names, birthdates or common words. Do not use the same password for multiple accounts and do not share them via text or email. It is imperative to set password and encryption protection for wireless networks. If a home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured, it allows any device within range to access the wireless network and potentially steal information.
Double down for important information. In other words, copy vital files, including federal and state tax returns, onto a removable disc or a back-up drive and store it in a safe place. If you store sensitive information on your personal computer, be sure to use a file encryption program to add an additional layer of security.
And don’t forget to educate children about all these data security measures as well!