What Will Keep Your Tax Documents Safe in 2018?
As you and your company are gearing up for the 2018 tax season, so are hackers who are looking to steal your information for their own personal gain. With more and more paper documents transforming to become digital records to be electronically signed and filed away, tax documents are following suit. A hacker will find a way around each cybersecurity method, and with each precautionary measure taken, a new hack emerges. So how do you keep your documents safe?
This cyclical routine is nothing new to agencies and companies who hold this sensitive information on your behalf. Since 2016, the IRS has reported a 400% increase in online phishing and malware attacks, and in 2017 alone, data breaches have hit major companies entrusted with massive amounts of data such as Equifax, Uber, and eBay. Most notably, Equifax, one of the largest credit agencies, was exploited when hackers found a vulnerability in software and obtained confidential information from 143 million customers.
Another agency that is no stranger to this cat-and-mouse game is the IRS. You can count on them to have some cybersecurity strategies in preparation for the 2018 tax season, but you can’t disregard the fact that hackers will be anticipating your data as well. It’s important to keep your documents safe and prevent data from being hijacked. Let’s take a look at how you can keep documents safe during the 2018 tax season.
Identity theft and other financial fraud can be easily detected if you know what to look for. Trust your instincts when determining whether or not to give personal information over the phone or when prompted online. The IRS will never ask you for credit card numbers, blackmail you with the threat of law enforcement, or demand immediate payment over the phone. The telephone scam has been a deception from fraudsters for years and is usually easy to catch. However, it still tricks people who don’t know what to watch for.
Email phishing scams are another deceiving way a scammer can get your information. Often they’ll try to get money from you by promising to pay you an even larger sum of money at a later date, never to be heard from again. Another way sensitive information is obtained is when you are prompted to click on a link inside of a suspicious email. These links can download malware on your computer, leaving your data easily accessible for hackers.
File as Soon as Possible
Although there is no declared date for the earliest you can file your taxes in 2018, it’s extremely important to get all of your financial documents together so you can have them ready to send out immediately. The IRS processes an astronomical amount of tax records, and the procedure only gets longer as an increasing amount of documents pour in. Getting your financial records in means that they’ll be out faster.
The shorter amount of time that your data is away from you, the less it will be vulnerable and susceptible to illegal access from hackers. Get in, get out, and leave the fraudsters with no time to bypass cybersecurity and retrieve your data. A bonus to getting your tax information quickly is that since it’ll process faster, meaning a faster return for you and your company.
Organizing and Securing Your Files Properly
After years of filing taxes, you may have a surplus of electronic and paper financial records — some you will need to shred to keep prying eyes from seeing, and some you will have to keep for the following years or in case of an audit. ATM, banking, and other receipts should be shredded, but only after reconciliation and you are sure you won’t have to refer back to them again.
Items such as your social security card, loans not yet repaid, previous tax returns, and life-insurance documents should be stored for up to at least five years, if not forever. You’ll want to store these documents, as well as possible electronics that contain sensitive information in a secure and lockable space designed specifically for protecting personal electronics. Essentially, keep sensitive information in a secure place where only you can access it, and prevent anything from being physically stolen. You’ll want this personal information safeguarded in the event you have to recall pertinent information, find yourself the victim of a digital hacking that requires hard copies of important documents, and for a continued peace of mind.
Whether you are an individual, or an individual running a business, you still have to pay taxes. In an era where your documents can be compromised at any given time, it’s important to keep them safe from the beginning to the end of their existence. The tips above will help you keep you and your financial documents safe from financial ruin including tax fraud and identity theft.