8 Tips to Avoid Tax Season Scams

The feature article in the winter 2017 issue of Security Smart Newsletter, is This Tax Season, Skip the Scams.

It features eight tips for staying secure this tax season from Tyler Moffitt. It’s not only timely advice because of the time of year, but because it provides education to defend ourselves against the vulnerabilities many of us have in regards to our private financial data.

  1. Do not send personal information over email. That’s just a good rule in general. It’s also important to know that the IRS will never contact you via email to request personal or financial information. Do not click on any links or download attachments from emails claiming to be from the IRS.
  2. Beware of IRS-specific scams. Webpages that look like the IRS website often have links promoting large refunds that actually lead to phishing sites or malicious files. If you receive any type of message from “the IRS,” with an attached file, don’t open it.
  3. Avoid using search engines when looking for tax information. Some search results may lead to dangerous sites. Just go straight to the official IRS website at www.irs.gov for any tax related information, or to download any forms.
  4.  Update your software. Always download the latest updates to Windows and other non-Microsoft applications you use to read PDF files. The updates include security patches.
  5. Start with a clean machine. Perform a full scan of the computer with an up-to-date antivirus program before preparing and collecting tax information, or logging into your bank account, or any other website that holds your private financial data.
  6. Practice good password hygiene. Use complex passwords, change them frequently, and do not auto-save your login information. Log out of any sites with sensitive account information when you’re finished.
  7. Avoid public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks and everything you do on them is easily available to the public. Imagine anything you do on public Wi-Fi being displayed on large overhead TV screens for everyone to view. Use your cellular network connection instead.
  8. Keep personal information off your hard drive. After filing your taxes, collect your forms and tax return documents and burn them to a CD or DVD. Delete those files from your computer’s hard drive and clear the browser’s history in the browser’s privacy settings.

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