Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Business

New York State Taxation Department offers cyber security tips

In recognition of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the state Department of Taxation and Finance is sharing tips to help taxpayers detect scams, protect sensitive information and report suspicious activity.

“The tactics and schemes used by cyber crooks and identity thieves evolve along with the defenses to stop them, which is why even outside of the personal income tax filing season, it’s critical to remain vigilant,” said Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion.

“By taking proactive security measures now, taxpayers can reduce the likelihood that they’ll become victims of identity theft.”

The department’s advice includes:

• Be wary of calls demanding payment — only divulge personal information, including Social Security numbers — to those you trust. Remember, the state Tax Department and the IRS will contact you by mail first and will never threaten you over the phone or demand that payment be made through MoneyGram, Western Union or other wire transfer services, or using iTunes, Greendot, or other cash or gift cards.

• Avoid phishing scams. Taxpayers may receive emails with authentic-looking government logos or with links to websites designed to look legitimate. These may offer assistance in settling fake tax issues but are really designed to steal sensitive information. The state Tax Department and IRS will never request personal or financial information by email.

• Protect your computer. Ensure that your computer is secure when accessing your financial accounts online by looking for “https,” with an “s” after the “http,” in the website address. Also, if you’re disposing of an old computer, tablet or cell phone, remember there is sensitive data on these devices. Deleting stored files will not remove them from your computer. You should “wipe” the drives of any electronic product you trash or sell to ensure you remove all personal data.

• Use strong passwords — Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols when creating a new password. Don’t use your name, birthdate or common words. Use a different password for each of your accounts.

• Use secure wireless networks — Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password. Never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.

• Review bank accounts — Check your credit card and banking statements regularly for suspicious transactions.

• Review credit reports annually — Check your credit reports annually to spot any new lines of credit that you didn’t apply for or authorize. This can be a sign that a thief has stolen your identity and, for example, opened a credit card in your name.

• Think before you post — The information and photos you share via social media, including current and past addresses, or names of relatives, can provide scammers possible answers to your security questions or otherwise help them access your accounts.

• Secure tax documents — Store hard copies of your federal and state tax returns in a safe place. Digital copies should also be safeguarded with strong passwords or on external hard drives in a secure location. Shred documents that contain personal information before discarding.

• Review and respond to all state Tax Department communications — You should review and respond to all notices sent from the Tax Department. Any unexpected correspondence from the Tax Department can be a potential sign that your identity has been stolen. It’s important that you contact the Tax Department immediately to confirm any liabilities.

If you believe you’ve been contacted by a con artist posing as someone from the state Tax Department, visit the Tax Department’s Report Fraud, Scams and Identity Theft Web page to learn how to report the incident. The Tax Department will investigate the case or refer it to the appropriate agency or agencies.

For assistance with a consumer protection related matter, call the DCP Consumer Helpline, toll-free, at 1-800-697-1220. The Helpline is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays, You can also follow the Division of Consumer Protection on social media on Twitter and Facebook.

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