Certified Public Accountant Seth Fink explains that tax time is an ideal time for hackers looking for new and creative ways to obtain personal information. “This is the time of year everyone is prepping to do their tax returns,” Fink said. “Putting that kind of information in, you become a prime target for folks wanting to get that information and steal your identity.”
Computer crime prevention company ThreatMetrix estimates that more than 1.5 million tax returns, which equals approximately $5.2 billion paid in refunds last year, might have been fraudulent! And, their prediction is that up to $21 billion in fraudulent tax refunds might be paid out by the IRS over the next five years!
If you do your income taxes by electronic filing, it can become a problem if a hacker has a name, Social Security number, and birth date that can be used in submitting a return.
According to Ken Colburn of Data Doctors, most hackers may infiltrate your computer system through a variety of ways. He says, “Too many people think that if they have security software that’s up to date, that they are invincible. Nothing can be further from the truth.”
The computer crime prevention company suggests these tips:
- Make sure websites that require your personal information are secure by looking for the letter “s” in the website address after the “http” or finding a padlock symbol, typically located to the left.
- Be especially wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups. They usually will ask for personal and financial details. Banks, preparers, and the IRS will never ask for this information online.
- Remember to vary your passwords among websites. A hacker who obtains the one password that you use for all sites will enable them to access all of your information.
- Make sure to keep anti-virus and malware detection programs up to date and be sure to run scans often.
- Make sure the firewall that protects your network is working optimally.
In addition, Colburn said that you should do a routing inspection of your computer by restarting your computer, bringing up the task manager, and looking to see how many processes are running. If more than 60 are running, you may have a problem and will need to get your computer checked out.
One of our primary functions at Davik Consulting is keeping your computer, your network, and your information safe and secure. If you have any questions about if your computer and network security are in good shape before starting on this year’s taxes, give us a call and we can help you to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.