The government is able to identify you online with a few simple things: your credit card numbers, your bank account info, and your Social Security Number. These are critically important pieces of information that you need to keep safe when you’re online. If you were to have a malicious identity thief get their hands on this info, you could find yourself left untangling a complicated web of fraud and trying to prove your identity with the government.
This is especially true around tax time when people are scrambling to get their tax returns to the government. The last thing you want to see when you turn your taxes over to the IRS is a message informing you that you’ve already filed your taxes.
One of the first things you can do is reach out to one of the many online data security companies that offer antivirus and firewall services. Some firewalls are free, requiring you to just download them and set them up. Others, often with more features, cost money. Which one is right for you? Well, that depends on what you do online.
If you’re often downloading files from websites you can’t verify, then you might need a more robust antivirus program. However, if all you use your computer for is simply browsing the web and looking at a few YouTube videos, then you’ll probably be okay with a simple antivirus program that doesn’t cost anything.
One of the main ways scammers steal your information isn’t even through hacking, believe it or not. One of the most common ways scammers steal your personal info is by tricking you into handing it over to them willingly. These scams are known as “phishing” attempts.
Be careful when you put your info into a website or reply to emails that you can’t verify. These can just as easily be a front for a scammer who is trying to get their hands on your SSN or bank account information.
If you’re going to have your taxes prepared by a third party, make sure the person is certified to do so. Some scammers masquerade as CPAs in an attempt to get their hands on your sensitive financial information. When you’re considering going with a tax preparer, ask them to see their qualifications. A legitimate tax assistant will be able to produce official documentation to verify their identity, while a scammer will balk and claim you’re being paranoid.
Stay vigilant, and remember to keep your personal data hidden and private! Be as careful with your information as you are with your money.