The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started the “Taxes. Security. Together.” initiative with various US states and the private-sector tax industry to inform the general public regarding safety and security while carrying out any online transactions, such as: exchange of financial, personal, or tax information over the internet or through cellphones. This education initiative is an add-on to the various security measures that the IRS is taking along with various state authorities to prevent hacking, identity-thefts, and other cyber-crimes that could possibly occur during future tax filing seasons.
These measures are simple common sense tips, but for those who rarely use the computer it could definitely benefit you by keeping these few tips in mind while carrying out online financial transactions or providing confidential data.
Here is a brief overview of the measures suggested by the IRS:
Install/Update Security Software, and Use It
Internet security software protects computers against possible threats like viruses, malwares and spywares, which are ways computer data is stolen, deleted or hacked. Many internet security softwares are available at affordable rates and most need to be renewed on an annual basis. However, many of them come with free versions although with less functions and options. Having security software installed is very useful since most companies providing these software keep themselves up-to-date to fend off the most current tricks of hackers and criminals, and constantly update their software at an attempt to cover each and every known threat situation your computer could face. Not only security softwares come with firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spam features, but they also help facilitate file encryption to protect documents/information exchanged over the internet.
Allow Security Software to Update Automatically
Since the security software companies are always updating themselves, once the software is installed on the computer, it will require updates to make sure your computer is protected from new threats. Most software installs have the option of automatically downloading and installing updates and it is recommended that such option be turned on. If you prefer to control the updates and the installation then you should turn on the notification or reminder to update the software so you will know whenever a notification is received for system updates to be installed. It is recommended that the software be updated immediately when prompted.
Verify Website URLs
Often website addresses of banks, online shopping sites are encrypted as “https” instead of a regular “http” address. The additional ‘S’ signifies that it is a secure website and safe in case any confidential data needs to be exchanged or an online payment needs to be made. However, be aware that the https should carry through on all browser pages that pop up to request information, and not just the sign-on page.
Use Strong Passwords & Avoid Repetition
Passwords are the key to every important transaction. Therefore, always keep a password ranging from 8 to 12 characters, which should be a mix of alphabets, numbers, and a special character. Avoid using the same password for all accounts, do not use personal data, such as Social Security Number (SSN), Passport Number, Date of Birth of self or close ones as passwords, resist using the same password again, and as much as possible avoid sharing passwords over e-mails, instant messengers, etc. Calls, texts or emails pretending to be from legitimate companies or the IRS asking you to update your accounts or seeking personal financial information are generally scams and one should avoid providing information directly to the requester. The IRS does not usually call or email, they will usually send a letter notification through the US Postal Service at least twice before any attempts to call.
Secure Your Wireless Network
Many homes, and offices rely on wireless networks. These networks can be unsafe since if hacked the data exchanged on that network, and information stored on the computer can easily be accessed by the hacker/criminal. Therefore, always maintain a password on the wi-fi router, and update it on a regular basis, and do not share it with everyone.
Avoid Using Public Wireless Networks to Share Confidential Information
Wi-fi networks provided at cafes, and other public spaces may be convenient but often unsafe. Therefore, as a safe practice avoid sharing any personal or confidential information related to finances, tax, etc. over these networks.
Avoid Phishing Attempts
Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. Criminals and hackers often impersonate a business such as financial institution, corporation or government asking individuals to update their account information by clicking on the link provided by them in the mail.
Never click on links even if they appear to be legitimate. Go directly to the organization’s website to see if there is any notification regarding such updates. Also, if you look closely and verify the website address; there will some minor to significant difference between the link provided by them and the organization’s website address.
That being said, it can be difficult to stay on your toes all the time, and keeping these tips on your mind. However, regular practice of these measures do help instill them as a good habit, making it easier to follow and adhere to them in the long run.
AG Tax LLP Can Help
Tax situations can be complex and burdensome, if you have any tax-related queries or need assistance with tax planning or filing please contact AG Tax. Our tax professionals are highly-experienced with US and Canadian tax laws and can provide you the right guidance to handle your tax situation.
Aylett Grant Tax LLP is a full service accounting firm with a dedicated team of experts, who are highly-qualified and experienced in handling situations related to US, Canadian, and other international tax laws.
We can assist with:
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