Online Data Security: 8-tips you need to know

8 Essential Tips for Online Data Security

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax community, partners in the Security Summit, are making this National Tax Awareness Week (November 27-December 1). Why is data security important? According to Carol A. Campbell, Director, IRS Return Preparer Office --“tax professionals are becoming the number one target for identity thieves.” This is due to the treasure trove of financial information that preparers possess. So, while you are shopping for online gifts, here are 8 reminders to keep you safe online this holiday season and in the year to come.

8 reminders...

  1. Use Secure Network connections- Make sure the websites you visit show the “https” at the start of URL. Also look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar. Make sure it’s a retailer you trust.

  2. Avoid Unprotected hotspots- Do not use public WiFi for online financial transactions. Unprotected hotspots can lead to unwanted people seeing what’s on your computer.

  3. Use strong passwords- strong passwords need to be long, the longer the better, a combination of letters numbers and special characters and a unique password for each account.

  4. Don’t click on questionable email links- this includes pop-ups and free security scans, and even if it looks like it’s from a trusted company, if the email suggests you need to update your password or something has changed in your account don’t click on the link. Go directly to the site through your browser and check if the emails claim is legitimate.

  5. Make sure security software is installed on all devises (computers, phones and tablets) - this will help to protect against malware and viruses aimed at stealing data. The software needs to be set to update automatically to be ready for any new viruses that pop up.

  6. Use multi-form authentication where available-financial, email, and social media sites will offer that you put in your password along with a security code sent in the form of a text or an email.

  7. Be sure to wipe all cell phones, tablets and computers before selling or disposing of them- Your information has been on them for years. Make sure no one else get it once you are done with them.

  8. Encrypt and back up sensitive data- This includes financial records, tax returns or any information that will identify you if stolen.

With all the security hacks that have happened recently, here are 2 Bonus steps to keep on mind.

2 bonus steps...

  1. Monitor your credit report- You can receive one free yearly report from the credit reporting agencies, sign up for credit monitoring through your credit card, or get reports through a reporting service like credit karma.

  2. Monitor your Social Security Number- create a “My Social Security” account online with the Social Security Administration to monitor how much income has been assessed to your social security number. This can help determine if someone else is using the SSN for employment purposes.

Be on the lookout for more helpful information this week from the IRS and your friends at My Tax Courses Online. And be safe this holiday season and the year to come.