While many people during the holiday season are focused on shopping online for gifts, the tax industry, the IRS and state tax agencies are reminding individuals to be very careful with their personal information. This means when participating in online purchasing, people need to remember that criminals are looking to secure your sensitive data, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and financial account information that would assist them in filing a fraudulent tax return. Therefore, they want to promote National Tax Security Awareness Regarding Online Security Safety Steps.
The Internal Revenue Service, as well as other tax agencies, decided to declare Nov. 27-Dec. 1 ‘National Tax Security Awareness Week’ to remind taxpayers and tax professionals about being secure online. Since cybercriminals are seeking to acquire stolen data and turn it into an opportunity for fast cash, here are several tips in protecting your tax returns, refunds and promoting safety online.
Several Tips to Promote Safety While Making Online Purchases
Although shoppers are drawn to going to sales no matter what website they are on, one tip is to purchase items from online retailers that are familiar to you. Keep an eye out for designations that have the “s” in “https” at the beginning of a URL as they are usually secure; seeing a “lock” icon in the browser’ URL bar means it is secure. Remember that security certificates can be obtained occasionally by bad actors, so the “s” being visible may not always mean the site is legitimate.
Another tip is to avoid and recognize phishing emails that pretends to be a trusted source such as from the IRS or financial institutions. Phishing has to do with attempting to secure sensitive information such as credit cards (cash), usernames and passwords for malicious purposes by pretending in an electronic communication to be a trustworthy entity. These types of emails may suggest that an account needs to be updated or that a password is expiring; criminals will try to entice users to click on an attachment or link that directs the individual to a fake website that will steal passwords and usernames, or the attachment could download malware that monitors keystrokes.
One other tip is to password-protect and encrypt sensitive data; this is the method in which other type of data or plaintext is converted from a form that is readable to a version that is encoded that can only be decoded by another person only if they have access to what is known as a decryption key. When keeping information on a computer such as any personally identifiable information, financial information or tax returns, this data needs to be protected encrypted with a strong password; using multiple characters, upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols will help strengthen the password and make it more difficult for an entity to obtain your password.
The website news release has other tips for protecting an individual’s information and is strongly suggested to read the rest of their tips. The National Tax Security Awareness Regarding Online Security Safety Tips is being done for a week and part I of this series is on the topic of online security. Make sure to take these tips and other information they suggest seriously so that you can enjoy a safe and productive shopping experience online.