This month the IRS issued its tenth “Tax Tip” as part of the Taxes. Security. Together campaign. Since November, the IRS has issued tips related to online computing, phishing and malware, password protection, financial account protection, and tax records. Here are some of the highlights from the tips provided by the IRS:
• Look for Encrypted Websites. When a website is “https” rather than “http” at the beginning of the website address, this indicates the website is encrypted. Using encrypted websites should reduce the risk that your data may be compromised.
• Avoid “Bait” Emails or Phone Calls. The IRS continues to warn of emails or phone calls indicating, “’Update your account now.’ ‘You just won a cruise!’ ‘The IRS has a refund waiting for you.’” These type of emails or phone calls tend to be designed to obtain your personal data.
• Check Credit Reports and Statements. In order to detect fraud, your three credit reports should be reviewed at least once a year. Additionally, bank and credit card statements should be routinely reviewed. Health insurance statements should also be reviewed for claims or payments you never made.
• Passwords. Consider varying passwords for bank accounts, tax information, and any other accounts. The IRS indicates that one of the reasons the phishing scams can be so effective is because individuals tend to use the same passwords for multiple accounts.
• Contact a Credit Bureau. If you think that you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your account. The fraud alert can make it more difficult for identity thieves to obtain credit cards or loans in your name. A credit freeze should also be considered but may require the payment of a fee.
• Keep and Protect Tax Records. The IRS suggests you keep a copy of your tax records, but it is important to remember that these records include sensitive personal and tax data. If you retain paper records, keep them in a safe place. If you dispose of any paper records, shred them. If you maintain electronic records, the IRS recommends that you always keep some form of an electronic backup in the event a hard drive or computer crashes. If you are disposing of an old computer or hard drive, you should take steps to permanently delete anything with sensitive tax or personal data.
For a full list of the Tax Tips, see https://www.irs.gov/uac/IRS-Security-Awareness-Tax-Tips
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