Updated Friday, Dec. 6, 2019
Yes, I know Cyber Monday has come and gone. I also realize that a lot of folks finished up their holiday shopping earlier this week.
But there always are those of us who put off picking up that perfect present until the last minute. Or, as Dec. 25 nears, we just happen to see something that our spouse, parents, children or best fiend would absolutely love.
So, since we seem to be perpetually logged in, we click on it and we're done.
Unless our clicking leads to identity theft.
Beyond basic online security: We all know by now that we've got to be careful when we're surfing or shopping the web.
We've got the basic online safeguards down pat.
Shop only at secure https sites. Don't use public Wi-Fi. Create strong and unique passwords for online accounts. Use two-factor authentication.
Rinse, repeat, keep clicking.
But a lot of us pay closer attention to these online security guidelines when we're using our PCs or laptops.
Our smartphones or tablets, however, are just as — and probably even more — susceptible to hacking by tax ID thieves. Crooks have become more adept at compromising mobile phones as more of us rely on these devices for our daily activities.
That means we face a particular security problem when last-minute holiday impulse buys are made via mobile devices.
Secure your mobile devices: You don't have to quit using your phones or pads, like that would ever happen!
Instead, make sure the devices you use to shop (or perhaps to file your taxes; hey, this is a tax blog) are secure.
One easy way to do this is to check out the security recommendations for your mobile phone by reviewing the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Smartphone Security Checker.
The FCC site provides specific steps based on your mobile operating system, be it Android, Apple, Windows Phone or BlackBerry.
Want more mobile security tips? There's the FCC's general smartphone security checklist, as well as its Consumer Guide on Mobile Wallet Services Protection with ways to protect devices, mobile wallets and the data they contain from theft and cyber attacks.
IRS online tax security tips: The smartphone security and shopping tips are part of the Internal Revenue Service's participation in the 4th Annual National Tax Security Awareness Week.
The week fittingly kicked off on Dec. 2, #CyberMonday, and runs through this Friday, Dec. 6.
As part of the week, the IRS and its Security Summit partners are offering a daily online security tip.
Monday's (Dec. 2) security message focused, of course, on the ID theft dangers of online holiday shopping and ways to protect yourself and equipment. And yes, there is a tax connection.
"The holidays may mean the shopping season to consumers, but it's the hunting season for online thieves," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "Identity thieves are looking for your information to help them file fraudulent tax returns. A few simple steps can help protect you and your valuable information during the holiday season and at tax time."
Tuesday (Dec. 3), the IRS online security message focused on ways to avoid phishing scams.
Wednesday's (Dec. 4) tip offers suggestions on creating strong passwords.
Thursday (Dec. 5), the IRS recommends ways businesses, both large and small, can step up their cybersecurity protections against business identity theft.
Also, if you're free at 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, check out the IRS Twitter chat on ways to protect yourself and your tax data from online threats.
On Thursday, Dec. 5 at 1 pm ET, @IRSnews will hold a Twitter chat for National #TaxSecurity Awareness Wk, with tips to protect yourself from cyberthreats ahead of the 2020 tax season. Follow along with the hashtag #TaxSecurityChat. pic.twitter.com/nRdnEKPe1p— IRS (@IRSnews) December 4, 2019
Friday (Dec. 6) wraps up the week encouraging tax professionals to create a data security plan or, if they already have one, review it.
Check out the tips. Apply the advice where applicable.
And basically, stay safe when you're online, regardless of whether you are using your computer or mobile devices for personal purchases, business communications and transactions or tax-related year-end (and year-round) moves.
You also might find these items of interest:
- Charitable giving season, and related scams, are here
- Be ready for the worst: Create a tax data theft recovery plan
- 7 ways to protect your tax identity during peak holiday online shopping season — and year-round