Crime During Tax Time: 10 Essential Steps To Avoid Criminals This Tax Season

We’re All At Risk

“Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Tax season is stressful enough as it is. Putting personal, tax or financial data in the mail, online, or offering over the phone can be dangerous! This can exacerbate tax season woes with unwanted additional worry and risk even before any breach or fraud.  Take these few simple steps to achieve better security and peace of mind.

Why ME?

Scammers know that this is the season of ample opportunity for them to take advantage of trusting, vulnerable taxpayers. There are a whole host of signs that reveal the deception, but without awareness of these you are at a high risk for compromising your identity and sensitive information.

10 Tips To Tax Season Security

In light of the annual release of the IRS “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams list for the 2016 filing season, as well as the National Cyber Security Alliance bulletin addressing this critical period, we’ve put together this essential list of 10 things you can do to protect yourself and your business during the 2016 tax season:

1.) Watch Out: Phishing Hooks Ahead!
Unsolicited messages and links to fake websites, especially those without security trustmarks that are verifiable. Use viewer features of apps like Outlooks since those don’t support macros at all. That way you won’t enable macros by accident.
On that note, see Tip #5.

2.) Don’t Offer Payments Without A Bill/Statement
The IRS won’t come after you for payments without having first sent you a bill.  They also would never ask you for credit card info over email or phone.

3.) Avoid Fake Tax Prep Services
Preparers have to use their tax ID number when they are assisting you in filing any returns. Also, no tax preparer will conduct the work over the phone. Here’s a great set of tips from Better Business Bureau for knowing when to trust your preparer.

4.) Don’t File Over Public WiFi
Aside from the obvious risk of toting your private, sensitive documents to a public location, we don’t recommend filing taxes at your local coffee shop with free WiFi. Public wireless networks are particularly vulnerable to interception by criminals to pluck your personal info.

5.) Clean Up Your Computer
Keep your software up-to-date.  Software means browsers, operating systems on mobile and desktop devices, and keeping security tight and current.Make sure you know where your electronic documents are saved.
Malware often relies on on security gaps in apps like Office, Flash and your browsers. Patch all of this up and you’ll have fewer holes for criminals to invade.

6.) Improve Your Passwords
Our most recent eNewsletter featured this article outlining critical Do’s and Don’ts for password creation. We paired this with a MUST-READ report of Worst Passwords of 2015.

7.) Set Up Multi-Factor Authentication
Why wouldn’t you use all the security tools at your disposal to protect your account, especially in the context of this kind of data? Here’s a video from the National Cyber Security Alliance that’s a great introduction to adding this extra layer of security.

8.) Don’t Open Email If You Don’t Recognize The Source
If an email looks suspicious and you don’t recognize the sender or the topic, get rid of it and definitely don’t click on that link for free stuff or that too-good-to-be-true offer! Even better- move these emails you come across right to your spam or junk folder to let your email server know that you don’t want these and that they might not be from valid sources.

9.) Only File On HTTPS Websites
Look for “https” instead of “http” at the beginning of the URL you’re browsing. This extension encrypts your communications with websites, which makes your browsing more secure. File on sites that are well-known, established and/or registered with the IRS.

10.) If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It Probably Is
Promises of “tax relief”, debt settlement, or methods for carrying out fraud schemes are, needless to say, not only likely to be illegal, but they are also scams.

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For a whole host of IRS-provided secure resources and tips for filing your taxes, please visit: