Tips For Protecting Both Digital & Paper Tax Returns

Most taxpayers are breathing a sigh of relief now that their tax return has been filed. But just because your tax return is safely behind you doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods. Your information is now officially “out there” once again, and you have some work to do to make sure it stays as secure as possible.

The coming weeks or months may be a hotbed of scam activity. IRS scams are rampant, and new changes to how the IRS works with chronically overdue taxpayers (as in years overdue, not just a few weeks!) can mean that scammers will take advantage of the chance to call you and threaten you into paying their “fines.” Now is the time to be extra vigilant about potential scams, as well as to share the news with people you know.

How are you protecting personal documents?

One of the most important things to remember about your personal information is knowing how much of it should be stored. If you don’t need some of your sensitive documentation, it’s a good idea to shred it and dispose of it. This page will help you know what types of information really should be saved.

Storing Hard Copies

After all the work involved in preparing your return, it can be tempting to leave it lying around or tossed in a drawer. Not only does that mean you might not be able to put your hands on when it’s time to work on next year’s return, it also means anyone with the opportunity can help themselves to your information. It’s important to lock up your completed return in a safe place to keep people—even people you thought you could trust—from accessing it.

Securing Digital Copies

If you’re one of the many people who relied on electronic filing, your taxes and your personal data might be stored on a laptop, a flash drive, or in the cloud. That means no paperwork lying around, but it also means a much smaller item to misplace or go missing; if it’s on your laptop, it could easily fall into the wrong hands if your device is lost or stolen. Cloud storage, while often a safer alternative to physical storage, carries its own special security considerations, like making sure you’re using a strong, unique password on your account to avoid hacking.

Some experts agree that storing all of your tax-related paperwork as an electronic copy and then destroying the physical copies is a good way to keep people from accessing it. It also preserves the papers in case of fire, flood damage, or another unforeseen issue. Locking up a small flash drive may prove to be easier and more secure than trying to safely store a manila folder full of documents.

Data Security Isn’t One-and-Done

No matter how you choose to secure your personal identifiable information, you have to remember that your data security isn’t a one-and-done issue. It’s important to check up on your key papers and electronic copies, stay on top of the latest data breach news and notifications, and monitor your accounts for any signs of suspicious activity. You might not be able to stop each and every threat to your personal data, but you can work to reduce the risk and minimize the damage through proactive steps.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.