Security is on many Americans’ minds as we hear about data breaches regularly in the news. During the tax season, sensitive data such as our financial information is transmitted through platforms that may be as secure as they can be, but they’re also fallible programs that could present security concerns if the perfect storm hits them. While you can’t do anything about major data breaches at large companies, you can do what you can to protect your finances and information during the tax season and beyond with our tips below.

Update Your Computer Software

Although updating your computer software may seem like a waste of time in the moment, it helps keep your finances secure by incorporating updates into the software to keep it secure against threats compared to previous versions of the software. In just the first half of 2019, researchers found that data breaches exposed upwards of 4 billion records, and the FBI reports that cybercrime has increased by 300% since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. During the tax season, you won’t want to become part of that statistic if it continues to be that serious this year.

Shred Old Paperwork With Sensitive Information

While we may think of data breaches as high-tech problems with high-tech solutions, some of the most common ways that our financial or personal data becomes exposed can be analog, low-technology situations like someone finding an old credit card of ours in the trash that hasn’t been properly destroyed. According to Angi, you’ll want to clean spaces like your bathroom, living room, kitchen, bedroom, and office at least once a week. As you dust, mop, and sanitize, you can make shredding sensitive documents and paperwork part of your routine, so you don’t forget to do it.

Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi

When you’re out in public, you may be tempted to save your precious data and use public Wi-Fi if your phone plan limits your data. If you do this, you will be far from alone since, according to Forbes, 99% of those surveyed utilize a smartphone or tablet to navigate social media platforms and some of those individuals probably rely on public Wi-Fi in coffee shops and other settings. Although public Wi-Fi is convenient for users, it’s also convenient for hackers and bad actors to infiltrate it to breach data, since it’s less secure than private Wi-Fi networks.

If you need to use public Wi-Fi for vital tasks, speak with someone who specializes in cybersecurity to get their take on best practices in the field. Even if you don’t know anyone who works in cybersecurity or information systems, you can research it online (using private Wi-Fi, of course!) and find tools that may keep your information safer, such as VPNs. For those who use public Wi-Fi, because they don’t want to spend money on private Wi-Fi, it’s wise to consider how much more expensive it would be to recover from financial insecurity than it would be to buy a Wi-Fi plan.

Use Trusted Tax Services

During the tax season, you may run into scams that promise to file your taxes but steal your data instead. To keep your finances secure, you should only interact with tax services that are reputable and safe. If you’re not sure if tax services are legitimate, you should look into their credentials and see if they have the proper qualifications to do the work they do.

If you feel uncomfortable with how a tax professional handles your financial information, you can always ask to speak to their supervisor. You can also find another tax firm if it’s early in the tax filing process. If a tax professional does something illegal, you can also file a report with the appropriate authorities.

In conclusion, data security matters all year round. Financial security is important 365 days a year, too. Still, the tax season is a good time to assess whether your current financial security practices are solid.

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