Ten Actions You Can Take Now to Protect Your Financial Information During Cyber Security Awareness Month NYS Tax Department and NYS Division of Consumer Protection offer tips to prevent identity theft and fraud
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The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, along with the Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection, today reminded taxpayers to remain vigilant against scammers and identity thieves. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, however protecting private information should be a year-round practice.
“Taxpayers contact us throughout the year, not just during tax season, to report fraud and identity theft,” said NYS Tax Department Acting Commissioner Nonie Manion. “It’s critical that New Yorkers ensure that their financial information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. That’s why we’re offering these simple steps that taxpayers can take now to guard their money and identity.”
“Online theft of private data and information can result in identity theft and a loss of time and money for those who are victimized,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, whose agency oversees the State Division of Consumer Protection. “We recommend consumers consistently monitor all their accounts, as a few easy steps now can save one a lot of aggravation later.”
1. Be wary of aggressive phone scams – Be sure to only give personal information—including social security numbers—to someone you trust. Remember, the NYS Tax Department and the IRS will contact you by mail first and will never threaten you over the phone or demand payment be made through MoneyGram, Western Union, or other wire transfer services; or using iTunes, Greendot, or other cash or gift cards.
2. Avoid phishing scams – Taxpayers may receive emails with authentic-looking government logos that offer assistance in settling fake tax issues. The NYS Tax Department and IRS will never request personal or financial information by email.
3. 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.
4. Use strong passwords – Use a combination of upper- and lower-case 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.
5. Use secure wireless networks – Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password. Never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.
6. Review bank accounts and statements – Check your credit card and banking statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.
7. Review credit reports annually – Review each of 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 opened up a credit card, for example, in your name.
8. Think before you post – The more 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.
9. Secure tax documents – Store hard copies of your federal and NYS tax returns in a safe place. Digital copies should also be saved. Shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
10. Review and respond to all NYS 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 that you’ve been contacted by a cyber criminal attempting a scam, have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, or suspect a tax preparer is engaging in illegal activities, visit the Tax Department’s Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage to learn how to report it. The Tax Department takes this type of illegal activity seriously, promptly reviews each complaint, and takes corrective action when appropriate.