12 Tips To Protect Personal Info During Tax Season - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
02:07 PM

12 Tips To Protect Personal Info During Tax Season

A security software firm recommends a healthy dose of prevention as the number of Americans filing taxes online grows each year.

With tax season nearing its height and millions of Americans filing taxes electronically, security software vendor Identity Finder offers some basic tips on how taxpayers can protect their personal information.

Identity Finder's products scour computers for personal information and provide users with options to protect that information. Although the company's tips may seem obvious, identity theft is a growing problem.

In 2007, identity theft complaints topped the list of concerns reported to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, accounting for 32% of all complaints.

At the same time, the number of Americans filing taxes online grows each year. Last year, the IRS received 77 million tax returns electronically.

Anne Wallace, president of the Identity Theft Assistance Center, said it's up to taxpayers to be vigilant about the security of their personal information. "It's always good to have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes sharing your personal financial data, especially at tax time," she said.

Identity Finder reminds taxpayers to take the following precautions:

  • Make sure all tax returns are password protected.
  • Disable peer-to-peer file-sharing programs.
  • Don't e-mail tax documents to accountants without encrypting them first.
  • Use passwords when registering to download tax forms from employers.
  • Do not respond to e-mail that appears to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS does not contact taxpayers via e-mail.
  • Mail paper documents from a U.S. Post Office, and consider using certified mail. Do not leave them in open mail collection boxes.
  • Do not provide personal information to callers claiming to represent the IRS.
  • Make sure Web sites processing electronic payments or direct deposit refunds are secure.
  • Permanently delete unsecured documents containing personal information used to prepare tax returns and shred paper documents.
  • If photocopying financial documents, make sure the photocopier doesn't store images in its memory.
  • Update operating systems to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
  • Don't save passwords in Web browsers when accessing bank accounts or other sources that store personal information.

And don't forget to update antivirus software.

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