Online safety is a serious issues for families especially during tax season. Many parents have expressed concern about someone’s hacking into their tax documents and retrieving their personal information. Most of us can relate to this fear.
In fact, I was a victim of identity theft. I only discovered it because my accountant told me that she received a notice from the IRS that my income tax return had been filed twice. This experience made me much more vigilant about protecting my personal information.
The threat of identity theft is rampant during tax season and it’s important to take steps to defend against these online threats. Although it seems like a daunting task, protecting your privacy and online identity isn’t difficult. Here are five things you can do to protect your family and keep your online information safe:
Use Strong Passwords
A password is your first line of defense against an online threat. It starts with creating strong passwords. Your password should contain at least 8 characters and include letters, numbers, and symbols. If your current passwords are included on this list of the 25 Worst Passwords, please reset it immediately. You should also change your passwords regularly. If you use online tax filing services, a strong password is even more important.
You’re probably thinking that all of this password management is too much trouble. And without the proper tools, it can be. Fortunately online security services such as Master Lock Vault make it easy to store and manage passwords and usernames. Instead of storing this information in a Word document or on a sticky note, take advantage of Save Passwords in the Master Lock Vault; an easy and secure place to store passwords and notes. Your information is easily retrievable via the website or mobile app.
Encrypt Important Tax Documents
Many of us store important documents on our home computers. As a small business owner, I have scores of tax documents, receipts, and IRS statements. Although storing these documents on my hard drive is convenient, it’s not always safe especially if the documents aren’t encrypted (Google “How to encrypt a file” if you want to learn how to do this). Master Lock Vault gives me peace of mind because it is like a safe deposit box for my digital life. All of my tax documents are safely stored in one place. Best of all, the service offers 256-bit SSL data encryption, strong authentication controls, redundant firewall protection, and intrusion detection monitoring. An added bonus of using Master Lock Vault to organize the tax filing process this year is the chance to win $1,000. Visit Master Lock Vault to enter.
Check Your Credit Report
Once a year, you can get a free credit report from the three credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian. Be sure to review your reports annually to identify mistakes and determine if your identity has been stolen. A problem on your credit report can be costly and have some serious tax implications. Contact the agencies immediately if you find a problem. After downloading your reports, store them in your Master Lock Vault. You may need to refer to them later.
Google yourself periodically to see what types of information comes up. You may be surprised by what you discover. My cousin found out that someone had been using his personal information after the IRS declined his tax return. A quick Google search helped to track down the perpetrator. You should also Google your children because identity thieves often target kids and file tax returns in their names.
Talk to Your Family About Online Safety
My daughter told me about her friend’s sharing their social media account passwords. I immediately let her know that this practice is not safe and encouraged her to refrain from doing this. But I was glad that she trusted me enough to share this information with me. As parents, we have to teach our children how to protect their privacy and personal information. Dinner time is a great opportunity to have these discussions. Don’t leave it to chance. Protecting your family from online threats is a valuable investment of time.
Join the conversation: Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? How do protect your family’s personal information online?
Disclosure: I’m a paid member of the Master Lock Live Squad.
Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr Creative Commons