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Identity Finder: Tax Time Is Identity Protection Time -- And Not Just Online!

As tax season moves into higher gear, so do criminals' efforts to liberate your personal information from your private files. According to one identity theft expert, our online identity protection vigilance needs to be matched by offline wariness as well.
As tax season moves into higher gear, so do criminals' efforts to liberate your personal information from your private files. According to one identity theft expert, our online identity protection vigilance needs to be matched by offline wariness as well.Todd Feinman, CEO of security company Indentity Finder has been making some good points about identity theft and tax returns lately, among them the need to keep your security eye as carefully on your paper materials as your digital information.

In other words, everything that has personal information on it can be at risk unless you take proper precautions and take them constantly.

On the paper front, for instance, he cautions

Make sure photocopiers don't store images of documents in memory.

Mail returns only from secure Post Offices or Postal Service collection boxes (i.e, don't try to save on postage by putting the return in in the outgoing mail basket at the office).

Consider using certified mail if submitting your return on paper.

Bear in mind as well that even if submitting on paper, odds are you'll be doing at least some of the tax prep on a computer:

Disable all personal file access for any p2p programs on the machine.

Create strong passwords for PDF and other files that contain personal information.

Make sure the computer is fully patched, with all anti-virus and anti-spyware defenses up-to-date.

Don't use browser-stored passwords and log-ins for financial sites and services. (I'd say don't use browser-stored passwords for anything, especially not on computers in offices and workspaces.)

Using an accountant? E-mailing material to the accountant?

Encrypt all communications between you and your accountant or other sources of financial and personal data needed for your returns.

Use strong passwords -- not browser-stored -- when downloading tax forms and other information,

Feinman's insights are reminders not only that the "paperless office" presents plenty of paper-based opportunities for identity thieves -- opportunities that we may take for granted with our mind on digital materials -- but also that identity protection is a 24/7/365 challenge, not just at tax time and not just online.

Once you've got your tax information organized -- and secure! -- don't miss

Jennifer Moline's Tax Season Tips For Your Business

with even more of Jennifer's Tax Season Tips here.

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