Identity Finder is cautioning taxpayers about increased exposure to identity theft, saying that the amount of personal data that is in transit electronically over the tax season can make individuals more vulnerable to identity predators, according to a news release on Thursday.
"Hackers and identity thieves view tax season as a prime opportunity because so much private data is being shared electronically," Todd Feinman, CEO of Identity Finder, stated in the release. "It is important for individuals to be aware of the risks associated, and steps that can be taken to protect personal information."
Citing Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data, the company said on its website that 250 million-plus “personal records of U.S. residents have been exposed since 2005, and in 2008 alone 10 million Americans were victims of identity fraud, an increase from 2007 by over 20%.”
Identity Finder notes that instead of securing data by preventing entry to the network or computer (as a firewall would), it instead finds the personal data—Social Security numbers, bank and investment account numbers, birth dates—on your computer or network and secures “data at rest,” by “permanently shredding” or “encrypting” the data.
The company has four main editions of their software: Free, Home, Professional and Enterprise—for Mac or PC.
Identity Finder listed these FTC “Guidelines for Protecting Personal Information:”
- Take stock - Know what personal information you have in your files and on your computers.
- Scale down - Keep only what you need for your business.
- Lock it - Protect the information you keep.
- Pitch it - Properly dispose of what you no longer need.
- Plan ahead - Create a plan to respond to security incidents”
Identity Finder suggests these “11 Tips for Secure Tax Filing":
- Password-protect all electronic tax returns. Always create complex passwords and never save them unprotected, including PDF or Excel files.
- Don't send tax documents, social security numbers, or bank numbers via email to an accountant, spouse or anyone, unless they are encrypted.
- If you receive an email purporting to be from the IRS that requires personal information, do not respond to it. The IRS does not contact individuals via email.
- Be wary of e-mails or websites with offers of a tax refund for an already-filed return to be direct-deposited to your bank account.
- When postal mailing your tax return to the IRS, use certified mail, send it from a secured location, and do not let it sit in the box overnight as it could be stolen.
- If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to represent the IRS, do not give personal information over the phone. Hang up and call the IRS directly to answer their questions.
- Permanently shred unsecured documents from your computer that contain personal information. Printed documents should be traditionally shredded.
- Pay attention to children's identity data. Their information can be harvested at underground websites for years and used later in life to commit identity fraud.
- Install the latest updates to your operating system and anti-malware software to prevent known vulnerabilities from being exploited.
- After filing taxes online, clear out the web browser cache. This removes any occurrence of confidential information from temporary disk space.
- Do not keep unprotected copies of your identity information on your computer. Use Identity Finder Free or manually search your computer to locate and secure information that could be used to commit identity fraud.