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Department of Taxation and Finance

Cyber Security Awareness: Protect Yourself NYS Tax Department launches awareness campaign to help taxpayers spot security threats and safeguard their private information

For Release: Immediate,

For press inquiries only, contact: James Gazzale, 518-457-7377

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

This week’s tip: Take a proactive approach to cyber security.

 “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.”

1. Be wary of calls demanding payment—Only divulge personal information—including social security numbers—to those 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 that 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 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 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. 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.

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 for suspicious transactions.
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, for example, opened up a credit card in your name.

8. 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.
9. Secure tax documents—Store hard copies of your federal and NYS 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.
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.

Report it

If you believe you’ve been contacted by a con artist posing as someone from the NYS Tax Department, visit the Tax Department’s Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage to learn how to report the incident. The Tax Department will investigate the case or refer it to the appropriate agency or agencies.

To learn more about recent scam alerts affecting New Yorkers, as well as identity theft prevention and mitigation tips, please visit the New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) website. In addition, if you need assistance with a consumer protection-related matter, please feel free to call the DCP Consumer Helpline, toll free, at 1-800-697-1220. The Helpline is open Monday to Friday, excluding State Holidays, from 8:30am to 4:30pm. You can also follow the Division of Consumer Protection on social media on Twitter and Facebook.

Cyber Security Awareness Tips

Tip #1: Be on guard against common scam tactics