The holiday season is a time for joy, giving, and, unfortunately, a peak season for online scams. As taxpayers engage in online shopping, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in collaboration with state tax agencies and the tax industry, has issued crucial guidelines to help you stay safe. Protecting your sensitive financial and personal information is vital, especially as tax season approaches.
Key Tips for Secure Online Shopping
1. Secure Website Transactions: Always shop on websites with an 'https' address—the 's' stands for secure communication. Look for a padlock icon in your browser window, which indicates a secure connection .
2. Avoid Unsecured Wi-Fi: Refrain from shopping on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks found in malls or restaurants. These networks are more susceptible to cyber-attacks.
3. Update Your Security Software: Keep the security software, anti-virus, and firewalls updated on all your devices, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones. This helps prevent malware attacks and unauthorized intrusions.
4. Password Strength and Management: Use strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Consider using a password management tool for better security. Change passwords regularly, preferably every three months.
5. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication: Whenever possible, enable multi-factor authentication for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security, making it difficult for thieves to access your information.
6. Be Cautious of Scams: Be vigilant about emails or texts promising tax refunds or other financial benefits. Avoid clicking on links from unknown sources. These scams often lead to phishing sites aimed at stealing personal information.
7. Separate Business and Personal Devices: Use different devices for personal and business purposes. Don't conduct business transactions or send sensitive information from personal devices.
8. Avoid Suspicious Hardware: Never connect unknown or untrusted USB drives or external hard drives to your system, as they may contain harmful software.
Recognizing and Avoiding Scams
- Email and Text Scams: Watch out for suspicious emails and texts, especially those with spelling errors, awkward phrasing, or dubious links. Common scams involve promises of tax refunds or assistance with tax issues.
- Economic Impact Payment Scams: Be wary of messages related to the third round of Economic Impact Payments. These are often phishing attempts designed to gather your sensitive information.
The holiday season should be a time of peace and happiness, not stress over potential cyber threats. By following these guidelines from the IRS and Security Summit partners, you can enjoy a safer online shopping experience. Remember, staying vigilant and proactive about your cyber security is your first line of defense against identity theft and online scams.
For the latest updates and tips on staying safe online, especially during the holiday and tax seasons, keep an eye on official IRS announcements and trusted cybersecurity resources. Your vigilance can make a significant difference in protecting your personal and financial information.