Not only is April tax season, but it’s also prime time for cyber criminals to try to trick unsuspecting people into sharing personal or financial information. So in addition to filing your taxes, be sure to properly safeguard your data.
If you are among the majority of Americans who file their taxes electronically, the following tips can help you and your information stay safe:
- Don’t give out your personal information, unless it is to a trusted entity. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, do not click on any links or reply. Instead, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete it from your inbox.
- Look out for phony messages or websites claiming to be from the IRS. Exercise caution when opening suspicious email attachments and do not click on web links in unsolicited email messages. Scammers who try to access your personal or financial information may use the IRS name or logo in email messages and on fake websites to lure potential victims. Ensure that you have typed www.IRS.gov into your web browser to be certain you are visiting the authentic IRS website.
- Beware of promises of “free money” from inflated refunds. Scammers frequently pose as tax preparers during tax season. If you are contacted by someone who promises a large tax refund or a refund you are not expecting or entitled to, do not give out any personal or financial information. If the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Back up your data and store your electronic tax files securely. Last year, most Americans opted to file their taxes online. When preparing your tax return for electronic filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the file. If you are working with an accountant, ask them what security measures they have in place to protect your personal information.
- Only share personal information over a secured network. When at home, if you are using Wi-Fi, make sure you only join a password protected network – don’t connect if the network is publically available. Using free public Wi-Fi makes it easy for cyber criminals to intercept and steal your information. Never prepare your tax return or conduct other online activities such as banking and shopping when connected to an unsecured wireless network.
These tips can help all Americans stay safe online during tax season and all year round. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and when we take steps to ensure our own cyber safety, we are also helping to create a safer Internet for others.