As April 15 approaches, many taxpayer scams are already surfacing in a fraudulent attempt to gain access to private data. We wanted to share a few helpful tips from Scott Pogue, First Bank’s Information Security Manager, to help keep you—and your information—safe.
Although vigilance is required from each of us all year, it’s especially important during tax filing season, keep the following in mind:
• File your return early or as soon as you are able to do so. It helps to decrease the time an online criminal has to illegally file using your data.
• Don’t fall for malicious fear tactics. The IRS will never reach out to individual filers via e-mail so, if you see this, simply delete it. The IRS will not warn you of an audit via e-mail, nor will a third-party step in on your behalf without warning.
• Before filing online, do your homework. Research the reputation of the online company you’re going to file through and never click on an e-mail from an unknown company promising to file your taxes for free.
• Review security settings before filing online. Ensure the anti-virus software on the machine you’re using (private or public) has recently been updated. Are you connected to public Wi-Fi in a restaurant, coffee shop, or library? Just like during online shopping sessions, look for indicators of a secure connection, including the padlock icon in the URL bar, ‘https’ in the URL, and verify the URL is what you would expect it to be.
• Just like mom always said, “Clean up after yourself.” Online tax filing often includes an ongoing e-mail exchange of personal information. Remember, delete these e-mails once you’re done. Compromised e-mail accounts and online storage applications contain a wealth of vulnerable private data.
• Computer cookies can be dangerous. Deleting session cookies after online transactions will help remove sensitive data artifacts from your web browser.
• Always log-out. When you’re done filing online, log completely out of the site you are using, as persistent sessions can be vulnerable when not being used.