COLORADO SPRINGS — The IRS says 92% of tax returns last year were filed electronically, making cybersecurity more important than ever during tax time.
The big tax preparing companies have to go through an audit process to make sure they’re in compliance to store our data, but cybersecurity experts here in Colorado say often people are far too trusting with their information online.
”That is very valuable information for someone to use for identity theft,” said Michael Mercer who works on cybersecurity issues for the State of Colorado.
Prior to taking the job with the State of Colorado, Mercer spent 31 years working as a member of the FBI to keep digital spaces safe in Colorado and Wyoming. He says we should all start by adding extra layers of security to make hackers and fraudsters look elsewhere.
”You put in enough security controls to where the adversary doesn’t have the time or the resources to fight those controls and they move on to somebody else,” Mercer told News5.
He says one of the best ways to do that is through multi-factor authentication where you approve logins from another device and by strengthening your password.
”You do not want to use the same password for each account. You want to change that up and use a strong password. Something like, I like my coffee table and you can spell coffee with an extra “e”, add a capital letter in the beginning, add special characters in between,” suggested Mercer.
Another important step we can take is making sure our devices, apps and tax prep software have all of the latest updates installed.
”Please install that update because what the companies are doing, the organizations that create those, they’ve found vulnerabilities in there,” said Mercer. “There are millions and millions of lines of code in these applications and operating systems and it’s very difficult to catch every bug that’s in there. But our adversaries are going through that code and taking the time to look at that and creating compromises.”
Also, think twice before relying on search results from an online search engine it could land you on an imposter website.
”They’ll put in there… file taxes, tax rebates, things like that,” said Mercer. “Little search terms that people are going to use trying to get people to click and go to their website.”
If you’re trusting someone else with your taxes, you should question them about how they are protecting your information.
”Where are they storing your information? Are they storing it on a personal device? Does that device have security controls in place? Does it have encryption?,” advised Mercer.
Remember if you get an email, call, or text that doesn’t seem right, talk to someone you trust before you give up any information or pay them.
Also, Colorado is one of 19 states where taxpayers received inflation relief payments. It sounds like the IRS isn’t sure if these funds are taxable. So, the IRS says some people may want to wait on filing their returns until there is more information.
However, tax experts tell News5 consumers should still file their taxes as soon as possible to avoid a fraudster doing it first. You can always amend your filing later on, so if you don’t mind possibly having to do that the experts say you can go ahead and get your taxes done as soon as you are able.
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