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New Yorkers ‘encouraged to educate themselves against having their private information compromised online’
√ State's chief privacy officer and chief cyber officer partner with state agencies to raise awareness on guarding against data breaches
Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced steps New Yorkers can take 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," 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."
Hochul’s team said, “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.”
The press release noted 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.
√ Eligible taxpayers can electronically complete and submit their federal and New York state income tax returns online at no cost. Free File software allows you to file from home, which eliminates the need to carry sensitive data outside a safe location.
√ Visit the Tax Department website, tax.ny.gov, to review different Free File options. Simply click Free File your income tax return on the Tax Department home page.
√ By choosing direct deposit for your tax refund, you'll receive it up to two weeks sooner rather than having it mailed as a paper check.
•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.
√ Don't click on links, download files, or open attachments in emails from unknown senders. Open attachments only when they are expected, and the contents are known.
•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.
New York State Chief Cyber Officer Colin Ahern said, "New York is taking a leadership role in privacy and cybersecurity under Gov. Hochul's direction. The recommendations provided can help New Yorkers protect their private data, especially during tax season."
New York State Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller said, "Tax season is a busy time for cyber criminals who are always looking for ways to access and steal your personal information. Don't make it easy for them: Be vigilant in protecting sensitive information by following these simple tips."
New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo "Tony" Riddick said, "Under Gov. Kathy Hochul's leadership, New York state has taken important steps to enhance online security by safeguarding personal information, minimizing risk, and providing taxpayers with the tools they need to help protect themselves from cybercriminals. Use these simple tips to protect your sensitive information and stay vigilant against any and all potential tax scams."
New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Privacy Officer Michele Jones said, "Tax season brings greater risks to individuals and families as cybercriminals look to exploit online information for deceptive purposes. During tax season, I continue to encourage all New Yorkers to stay vigilant with their personal online security and follow our best practices and tips."
New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "New Yorkers must always be vigilant in protecting their personal information, but tax season presents a unique risk as scammers work to steal confidential information to pilfer tax refunds. Filing your tax return early not only secures an early refund, but also reduces your chances of falling victim to the theft of your tax return and, potentially, your identity. Be cautious and proactive by following these tips, it is the best way to protect yourself and your tax refund dollars."
If you're a victim or believe you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft, alert the Tax Department immediately. It 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.
For more taxpayer scam information, visit the Division of Consumer Protection's taxpayer scam webpage. For additional identity theft prevention and mitigation resources, call the consumer helpline at 800-697-1220 or visit the division's “Identity Theft Prevention and Mitigation Program” webpage.