New Yorkers can take steps to protect themselves from having their sensitive information compromised online during tax season. The State Office of Information Technology Services has teamed with other state agencies to promote tips to help New Yorkers protect their personal information during tax season, raising awareness of phishing schemes, using strong passwords, and exercising greater caution with information shared on social media.
“In an increasingly digital world, every New Yorker should take the basic steps needed to protect their sensitive data from online criminals,” Governor Hochul said. “During tax season, we are raising greater awareness of these schemes and urging all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their personal information to avoid becoming a target of these unscrupulous actors.”
Online activity generates immense trails of data. Websites, apps, and services collect information on behaviors, interests, and purchases as well as other sensitive data such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers or health information. New Yorkers can keep their personal information private and secure, preventing identity theft and fraud by:
- Filing promptly using e-file and direct deposit of your tax refund. Filing your tax returns as soon as possible can reduce the likelihood that an identity thief will be able to claim a fraudulent tax refund using your stolen information. Filing electronically is also safer, faster, and more efficient than sending paper returns through the mail.
- Protecting data and documents used to prepare your return. Keep sensitive personal information and documents safe during and after the filing process and delete or shred once no longer needed.
- Being wary of phishing schemes, including texts, unsolicited emails and telephone calls asking for personal information. Never share personal information, such as your Social Security number, in response to an unsolicited email or telephone call. If the email or call claims to be from a company with which you do business, call it first to confirm the contact is legitimate. Scammers will also use scare tactics and threats related to tax debt to get you to share your personal and financial information.
- Being cautious about the information shared on social media. Avoid posting birthdates, telephone numbers, home addresses, or images that identify employment or hobbies. This information may often reveal answers to security questions used to reset passwords and can be utilized by scammers looking to access accounts and personal information.
- Using strong passwords. Create different complex passwords for every account. Consider passphrases made of up multiple short words which are easy to remember but difficult for a computer to guess, like “Correct-Horse-Battery-Staple!”. Consider using a password manager which can help generate and securely store passwords.
If you’re a victim or believe you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft, alert the state immediately. The state will track your information to help keep it private and protected. Visit the Tax Department’s Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage.
Access more information and educational resources from ITS and NYS Chief Information Security Office newsletter.