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IRS Online Shopping Security Tips

In IRS-2017-173, the IRS offered seven tips for online holiday shoppers. With "cyber Monday" and other online specials drawing millions of American shoppers, these tips can protect you from cybercriminals.
  1. Familiar Online Stores - Use online stores with good reputations and familiar names. The URL or online address should start with "https." The "s" shows the website has a security certificate.
  2. Unprotected WiFi - Avoid using public WiFi for online purchases. Thieves can monitor activity on public WiFi. If you use your credit card to purchase items on public WiFi, a cybercriminal may be able to steal your financial information.
  3. Security Software - Anti-virus software is reasonable in cost and should be used by everyone. It should update each day when you are using the internet. Do not use "free" security software. Do not click on offers for "free" security scans.
  4. Passwords - Use 10 to 14 character passwords. The best passwords have a capital letter, a number, a special character and lower case letters. Use a password manager with encryption to save all your passwords.
  5. Phishing emails - Be cautious if an email claims to be from the IRS or a financial institution. Do not click on any links if you do not know the sender of the email.
  6. Authentication - Many banks and financial institutions now offer multi-factor authentication. They will usually send a text to your mobile phone. After you log in, you will also have to enter the word or number that has been sent by text message to your phone.
  7. Encrypt Data -Your sensitive financial data should be encrypted if you store it on your hard drive. If you change computers, be sure to clean or destroy the hard drive of your old machine.
There are a couple other helpful safety steps. First, you can obtain a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus each year. You should check annually to ensure that there are no unfamiliar financial actions on your account. Second, you may want to go to www.SSA.gov and create a "My Social Security" account. With this account, you will be able to monitor your Social Security records.

Published December 1, 2017
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