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4/23/2009
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10 After-Tax-Filing Security Tips

Filing your taxes isn't the end of the story. You've also got to be sure that you the electronic information you submit doesn't fall prey to identity theft. Think it can't happen to you? Tell that to the 10 million Americans who had their identity stolen last year.

Filing your taxes isn't the end of the story. You've also got to be sure that you the electronic information you submit doesn't fall prey to identity theft. Think it can't happen to you? Tell that to the 10 million Americans who had their identity stolen last year.Identity thieves seek a combination of personal information to do their damage to your credit rating, which for a small business owner could damage not just personal finances, but also business solvency. Unfortunately, electronic tax documents are rich hunting grounds for identity thieves according to Todd Feinman, the CEO of Identity Finder, a security and privacy software vendor. "Stored tax documents are a gold mine for hackers because a tax return contains at least one person's social security number and a tremendous amount of other relevant, personal information," he says. "Once thieves get an SSN, they can potentially wreak havoc on a victim's credit."

Because they contain such sensitive data, it's crucial to take extra measures to keep your electronic tax information safe. Feinman suggests these 10 steps:

  1. When storing a copy of your tax return on your computer, make sure you secure it with a password so that your SSN cannot be read if the file is lost.
  2. Securely delete all electronic, financial documents used to prepare your tax returns so any personal information is safe.
  3. Ignore all refund/rebate/warning e-mails claiming to come from the IRS and never click on links within those e-mails because it is most likely a phishing attack.
  4. Do not provide personal information to anyone calling you claiming to be from the IRS; the IRS already has your information and it's likely to be an identity thief calling you.
  5. Check your credit report with one of the three credit bureaus free every four months at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure your identity hasn't already been stolen.
  6. Install the latest updates to your operating system so known Windows or Mac vulnerabilities can't be exploited by hackers.
  7. Don't save your password in your Web browser when accessing banks and other institutions that keep your personal information because it could be leaked if you ever get a virus, Trojan, or are hacked.
  8. If you provided your bank account and routing information to the IRS for payment or refunds, check your bank accounts to ensure the proper transfer occurred.
  9. Visit your bank account online and set up alerts on your accounts to monitor when high amounts of cash are withdrawn.
  10. Make sure you do not receive incorrect payment liability or refund information; a thief could have filed a tax return on your behalf fraudulently. If you suspect tax preparation fraud, call the State Tax Department toll-free at 1-888-675-9437.

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