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Tax Time means Cyber Crime time. Computer Security is a must!

Posted on: February 15th, 2016 by Ken Smith

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Keep your personal tax information secure at tax time when you file on-line! A few key practices can help keep your tax data secure – here’s how…

Brown CPA Group, Ltd., – Tax Tip Tuesdays

by Ken Smith

Tax Tip Tuesdays Strategy No. 8: Keep your personal tax data secure when filing on-line.

Most taxpayers file their tax returns on-line today.
Sending all that personal information over the web has resulted in identity theft and stolen tax refunds. There are several ways to be secure online and help protect yourself against identity theft.
The list of high profile identity theft is long and terrible. For a short list of id theft cases click here:

The IRS has some video tips to avoid ID Theft here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLPQTkmnEvg
A good Accountant is very knowledgeable in the ways of keeping client information safe. Your CPA is an expert at identifying weakness in the internal control of your company’s financial information data flow. Consider engaging an information security expert from Brown CPA Group, Ltd. to identify and assess the risks of data breaches in your business, inventory the locations and types of your key information, and develop a written policy to safeguard your taxpayer data as recommended by the IRS in IRS publication 4557 Safeguarding Taxpayer Data available from the IRS here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4557.pdf
Don’t be a victim of the next high profile ID theft case! Some of the best practices that should be included in your written data safe guard plan should include the following:

1. Keep your security software up-to-date. Keep your security software up-to-date. Security software includes firewall software, anti-virus protection, and file encryption programs. Important note: Do not buy security software from an unexpected pop-up ad on your computer or email. Generally, these ads are a scam.

2. Allow Security Software to Update Automatically. The one time you forget to apply your software updates is probably the time your information will be attached. Malware changes frequently and your security software changes in a constant dance of new virus signatures and new antivirus programs to discover them.

3. Look for the “S” for encrypted “https” websites. Shopping and banking sites must be secure. Secure websites end in an “S”. Look for “https” at the beginning of any web address you are entering your banking or credit card information. Note: make sure the “https” is on all pages, not just the first sign-on page.

4. Use Strong Passwords. Use passwords of at least 10 to 12 characters including a mixture of letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use easy to guess words like your name, birthdate, or common words.

5. Secure your wireless network. A wireless network sends your data through the air then through the internet. Secure your home and business wi-fi with a complex password.

6. Beware of using public wireless networks. Public wi-fi hotspots are frequently not secure. If a public Wi-Fi hotspot does not require a password, it is not secure. If you are transmitting sensitive information, look for the “s” in https in the website address to increase the security of your data.

7. Avoid phishing attempts. Never reply to emails asking for your personal information. Cyber-criminals frequently impersonate your bank asking you to update your account and providing a link. Never click on links even if they look legitimate. Go directly to the organization’s website instead.

In summary, a written data security plan is advised in IRS publication 4557. The previous suggestions are key elements that should be included in your written plan.

To schedule an appointment to implement this strategy and others within the context of your unique tax situation, Contact Brown CPA Group, Ltd., at (847) 509-4100.

About the author: Ken Smith is an Enrolled Agent and Senior Staff Accountant with Brown CPA Group, Ltd. We know that success means different things to different people. While a business owner strives to maximize profits, increase efficiency and plan for succession; an individual client is more concerned with tax planning, wealth management, retirement and estate planning. At Brown CPA, we work with you on the total picture. Together, we succeed.
Contact your BCPA Tax Professional for help. We’d love to hear from you.

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