- Shop at sites where the web address begins “https".
- Don't shop on unsecured public wi-fi.
- Use security software for computers and mobile phones, and keep it updated.
- Phishing scams, imposter emails, calls and texts are the number one-way thieves steal personal data.
For many shoppers, Cyber Monday kicks off the holiday season. For some online thieves, ‘tis the season to take advantage of having so many people shop online at once. They steal shoppers’ personal information and package it as their own, while draining bank accounts or saving the information to file fraudulent tax returns in the names of the victims at the start of the 2020 filing season.
Some might call this a total Grinch move, but you need not let this be the season of giving to identity thieves; instead turn it into a season of protection for you, your family and your friends by taking just a few simple steps to protect financial accounts, computers and mobile devices. Consumers should:
- Shop at sites where the web address begins “https;” the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. This is an added layer of protection when sharing credit card numbers for a purchase. Note: scam sites also can use “https,” so shoppers should ensure they are shopping with a legitimate retailer.
- Not shop on unsecured public wi-fi. This helps to prevent thieves from eavesdropping. Instead, use secure home wi-fi with a password.
- Use security software for computers and mobile phones, and keep it updated. Make sure anti-virus software has a feature to stop malware and there is a firewall that can prevent intrusions.
- Not hand out personal information. Phishing scams, imposter emails, calls and texts are the number one-way thieves steal personal data.
- Not open links or attachments on suspicious emails.
- Use strong, unique, yet easily remembered passwords are safest for online accounts.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Many email providers and social media sites offer this feature to help prevent thieves from easily hacking accounts.
- Back up files on computers and mobile phones. A cloud service or an external hard drive can be used to copy information from computers or phones.
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Watch out for scam emails during holidays, tax season
The most common way thieves steal identities or account passwords is simply by asking for it through phishing emails. Remember, don’t take the bait! Recognize and avoid phishing emails. These tricky scams often:
- Pose as companies you know and trust, including places like the IRS.
- These emails tell an urgent story to trick you into opening a link or an attachment, which can lead to adding a virus or spyware onto your computer.
And, no, that’s not the IRS calling demanding a tax payment on a gift card. Remember:
- The IRS does not call demanding payment and making threats of jail or lawsuits
- The IRS does not demand payment via gift or debit cards. The IRS does not accept tax payments on iTunes cards. At tax time, checks should be addressed to “U.S. Treasury.”
- The IRS does not send unsolicited emails about refunds or payments, requesting your login credentials, Social Security numbers or other sensitive information.
Just a few simple security steps can make all this different. Protect your data; protect your money and your financial information this week and year-round.
Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers