During the holiday shopping season, shoppers are looking for the perfect gift, while criminals are looking to steal sensitive information. The Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are reminding Hoosier shoppers to be vigilant with their personal information, such as credit cards, financial accounts, Social Security number and other sensitive data that could help file a fraudulent tax return.
“Anyone who has an online presence should take the necessary steps to protect his or her identity and personal information,” said DOR Commissioner Adam Krupp.
“Cybercriminals seek to turn stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new credit accounts or even using an identity to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund. By educating taxpayers, we can help Hoosiers keep their information safe.”
The following are seven simple ways Hoosiers can ensure their personal and financial information doesn’t fall into hands of cybercriminals:
• Shop at familiar online retailers. Look for sites using “https” at the start of the URL as well as the “lock” icon in your browser’s URL bar. But remember, even malicious sites may obtain a security certificate so the “s” may not vouch for the site’s legitimacy.
• Avoid unprotected public Wi-Fi for financial transactions. Unprotected, public Wi-Fi hotspots may allow thieves to view your transaction.
• Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails. Many pose as a trusted source, such as financial institution or the IRS, suggesting your password is expiring or there is an urgent matter to address with your account. Their goal is to entice you to open a link or attachment to either steal your username and password or download malware to track your keystrokes.
• Keep clean devices. Use security software on your computer and phone to protect against malware to steal your data or inflict viruses to damage your files.
• Use long and unique passwords. Experts suggest at least 10 characters for a password. Use longer phrases instead of words, and be sure to use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Create a different password for each account.
• Use multi-factor authentication. Most financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow you to set your accounts for multi-factor authentication, meaning you may need a security code to log in for added protection. Check your account profile to see what added protections are available.
• Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. Financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on your computer should be protected and encrypted with a strong password.
Also, back up your important data to an external source. If you dispose of your computer or phone, make sure you wipe the hard drive before trashing.
With these seven steps Hoosiers are less likely to become victims of identity theft. For more information on ways to protect against identity theft and prevent fraud, visit the DOR website at www.in.gov/dor.