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Protect your tax data against 'technical glitches'
Tech troubles at NYSE, United Airlines, WSJ offer tax security lessons

Trading at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has been, for the most part, halted. While the situation that the NYSE says is a technical glitch is a boon for Twitter quipsters, it's legitimately freaking out traders and investors.

NYSE problems July 8 2015 as viewed on Twitter by Oliver Willis

The trading issue is entering its third hour as I type. NYSE officials, however, are hoping to open before the day ends. Floor trading finally resumed around 3:10 p.m. Eastern Time.

NYSE issued a statement after the 11:32 a.m. Eastern Time problem occurred:

"The issue we are experiencing is an internal technical issue and is not the result of a cyber breach. We chose to suspend trading on the New York Stock Exchange in order to avoid problems arising from our technical issues."

In addition to the internal NYSE investigation, the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are involved. Homeland Security also is monitoring the situation, as is the Treasury Department.

United Airlines, WSJ troubles, too: Part of the reason that the NYSE problem is so disconcerting, aside from all the money involved, is that it's not the only technical glitch today.

The day stated with the grounding of all United Airlines flights thanks to what the carrier says was a network connectivity problem. No flights in the air were affected, but ticketing and other computer based services at airports were impacted and planes on the ground weren't able to take off.

The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the stop by late morning, but delays lingered nationwide for hours.

Then there was the Wall Street Journal. That major business publication's digital version experienced a brief outage today, with its website's homepage temporarily displaying an error message. The newspaper's other sections remained online and the full website is now accessible.

Coincidental tech troubles, or ...? A website going down for a while or a company's internal computer problems are not new. Anyone who works with or depends on technology knows it can be infuriatingly unreliable.

My personal motto is technology is great, until it isn't.

Today's confluence of technical issues seems to simply be a curious, albeit annoying, coincidence. But it comes while folks are still dealing with the fallout of the hack of federal workers' personal data and the access identity thieves gained to tax information via an Internal Revenue Service online tool.

So conspiracy theorists are having a field day, although right now there is no indication of hacking in any of today's cases. 

The combined technical difficulties, however, do underscore how much all of us depend on technology.

Secure your tax, other data: They also offer a good opportunity to remind folks to take appropriate steps to safeguard their personal and financial, including tax, records from cyber attacks.

Don't fall for telephone callers purporting to be IRS representatives. They're not, regardless of how official they may sound. Don't give them any information or follow their instructions. Call the IRS directly to report the tax scam call.

Similarly, don't respond to or follow links in fake tax emails that are phishing for your personal and tax data. A lot of these communications can seem very real, but again they aren't. The IRS doesn't send out emails about individual tax problems.

Reconsider how much you're sharing via social media, especially Facebook. Tax and other ID thieves can sift through what you might think are innocuous bits of information, such as where you went to high school, your pets' names and info about your spouse, and use this to hack into financial and tax accounts. 

Backup, backup, backup: Today's events also offer a lesson regarding the run-of-the-mill technical glitches every computer user experiences, sometimes seemingly on a daily basis. When computers go down, they sometimes can take with them tax and financial date you need.

Back up your data regularly.

I am a big fan of redundancy. I keep records of my tax documents and other computer documents not only as part of my computer's backups to a third party service, but also on thumb drives or CDs.

You never want to have to re-create all that work, especially when you're on a filing deadline, but if you need the tax records later, say to get a loan or file an amended return to get a bigger refund or to claim losses from a natural disaster.

The bottom line is yes, continue to take advantage of technology and how it makes your financial and tax life easier. But don't take it for granted. Be prepared if the technological worst happens.

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