As if tax season wasn’t painful enough already, the Internal Revenue Service reports that identity theft related to tax refund frauds continue to plague the American people and the economy at epidemic levels. While the numbers have decreased from highs around 2015, the IRS reports that tens of thousands of taxpayers are still victimized on an annual basis.
While you should be mindful of cybersecurity all year long, now is the time to be particularly vigilant, with Tax Day just around the corner. In an effort to ensure your protection, here are five ways that you can fight back against malicious actors this year.
Update passwords: Between our personal and professional lives, the average individual must keep track of about 25 passwords. With so much to remember, many people will use duplicated or incredibly simple passwords. This makes it easy for hackers to break the code and gain access to your entire network. Set up Tax Day as your annual day to update your passwords to make yourself a more elusive target.
Biometric authentification: Adding extra layers of authentification can also be a great way to protect yourself and your personal financial data. For best results, leverage biometric technology. While hackers can fake a signature, it’s much harder to replicate the unique markings of our fingerprints, voices, faces or eyes.
Encrypt your data: If you’re sending documents over to your tax accountant, don’t do it on the public Wi-Fi at Starbucks. Even if you have firewalls and anti-virus software on your device, you’re only as secure as the network on which you transmit files. Consider using an encrypted messaging service or a virtual private network for such sensitive documents.
Credit reports and SSA statements: Every year, you’re entitled to a free credit report and social security statement. If someone already has gotten hold of your information, you may find it in these reports. Maybe you’ll see a strange new card added to your credit report. Maybe you’ll see your personal information with someone else’s earnings reported on the SS statement. Check these out annually and you’ll catch fraud that has already occurred before your financial reputation is irrevocably destroyed.
Always have backup: What do you do if you’re targeted with ransomware and lose access to your tax documents or other financial records? If you don’t have back-up, you only have two options: pay up, or lose the information forever. Colocate vital data off-site in the cloud or a private server for starters. And of course, while less modern, it doesn’t hurt to have paper copies either.
There are fewer ways to destroy your finances more quickly than handing over your data to a thief. To learn more ways to protect your identity, click here.