While attending an annual tax software conference last year, I was surprised at the amount of conversation surrounding cyber security. It is a hot topic and will continue to be in the coming years. There were stories of CPAs and tax practitioners who have lost their businesses and experienced permanent damage to their careers due to cybercriminals. Regardless of your occupation or line of business, any information that you have stored on a computer or in the cloud is susceptible to hacking. That conference made me realize there were additional security tasks I could do immediately to further safeguard my business and personal assets. There are some steps you can implement to help safeguard your digital information.
Perhaps the easiest fix from potential hackers is stronger passwords. In the past, easy to remember and short passwords were acceptable. That is not the case today. There is a good website (www.howsecureismypassword.net) that allows you to enter a potential password and it will give you the approximate amount of time it takes a cybercriminal to hack it. Here are some password examples. Which one do you think is the safest?
- We love mom and dad1
How did you do? Let’s just say remember to give your mom and dad a hug. Were you surprised? If you did not visit the site, it is worth the few clicks.
Another easy fix is securing an identity protection PIN for your tax return from the IRS. Visit www.irs.gov/individuals/get-an-identity-protection-pin and follow the prompts. Each year you will get a new PIN from the IRS that you will need to enter before e-filing your return. This does not cost anything and is a good preventative measure.
Finally, and I say this all the time to clients and anyone that will listen, the IRS will not call you to request money by threatening that you will go to jail. There are various versions of this scam, but it always involves paying money immediately to the IRS. If you owe money to the IRS, it will send you multiple letters and correspondence before taking any legal action. Phoning and threatening you is not one of the agency’s actionable items. I advise people to hang up immediately. The IRS does not use email either, so any email requests from the IRS are also fraudulent.
By John Veith CPA, CMA, MBA, contributing writer and owner of North Georgia CPA, Inc.