Identity thieves have stolen $112 billion over the past six years. As Javelin puts it, that’s equal to $35,600 stolen per minute or just enough to pay for four years of college in about four minutes.
It’s no secret your level of awareness needs to be raised around tax season – with all the sensitive data you’re exposing, you need to be on top of your security game. Remember, cybercriminals will steal personal data from outside the tax system and use that to file fraudulent returns or other crimes while impersonating the victim.
Recently, the IRS issued an urgent alert to all employers regarding a Form W-2 phishing scam that’s spreading like wildfire, targeting payroll and HR departments and even nonprofits. Luckily, the IRS has named PrimePay as a leader in protecting taxpayer data. Check out our latest article about our involvement in an IRS verification program.
With all these warnings, there’s no need to be scared – just cautious and knowledgeable. Here are 20 easy things you can do now to protect yourself. Share these tips with your employees because this applies to both your business and personal taxes.
- Use security software and make sure it updates automatically. Use things like a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption for sensitive data.
- Treat your personal information like cash – don’t leave it lying around anywhere.
- Check out companies to find out who you are truly dealing with on any level.
- Only give personal information over encrypted websites, like addresses with “https”.
- Use really strong passwords and protect them.
- Always back up your files.
- Avoid phishing emails, texts or calls that appear to be coming from the IRS, tax companies or other well-known businesses. Instead, go directly to their websites if needed.
- Don’t open attachments in emails unless you know exactly who sent it and what it is.
- Download and install software only from websites you know and trust. Get an IT team involved if applicable.
- Use a pop-up blocker.
- Engage with your employees about safe computing practices.
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or other documents containing your SSN.
- Don’t overshare personal information on social media. Things like past addresses, a new car, a new home, or your children can actually help thieves pose as you.
- Keep old tax returns and records under lock and key or encrypted, if electronic.
- Shred tax documents before trashing them.
- Don’t fall for IRS impersonators. Few quick reminders: The IRS will not call you threatening lawsuits or jail time, they won’t send you an unsolicited email suggesting a refund, and they won’t request any sensitive information online.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Check your bank and credit card statements often.
- Review your Social Security Administration (SSA) records annually and sign up for My Social Security at www.ssa.gov.
- You’ll also want to check out this page on the IRS website.
While these tips might seem like common sense or even a bit overkill, it’s these little steps you can take that will save you from falling victim to identity theft.