IRS Tax Tip 2019-171, December 5, 2019
Adults teach their kids how to drive, balance a checkbook and cook. It's also a good idea to teach younger users how to explore the internet with caution.
All internet users should be mindful of risks people can take when they share devices, shop online and interact on social media. Teens and younger users – like others who are less experienced with technology – often put themselves at risk by leaving a trail of personal information for fraudsters and con artists to follow.
Taxpayers might find the phrase "online security" overwhelming but, it doesn't have to be. Even those who aren't super tech savvy – no matter their age – can stay safe online. Here are some tips adults can pass on to the kids in their lives:
- Remember security is important.
No one should reveal too much information about themselves. People can keep data secure by only providing what is necessary. This reduces online exposure to scammers and criminals. For example, birthdays, addresses, age and especially Social Security numbers are some things that should not be shared freely. In fact, people should not routinely carry a Social Security card in their wallet or purse.
- Use software with firewall and anti-virus protections.
People should make sure security software is always turned on and can automatically update. They should encrypt sensitive files stored on computers. Sensitive files include things like tax records, school transcripts, and college applications. They should use strong, unique passwords for each account. They should also be sure all family members have comprehensive protection for their devices… particularly on shared devices.
- Learn to recognize and avoid scams.
Everyone should be on the lookout for scams. Thieves use phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts to pose as IRS employees or other legitimate government or law enforcement agencies. People should remember to never click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails. If someone calls asking for personal information, folks should remember not to give out such details.
- Protect personal data.
Adults should advise children and teens and other youngers users to shop at reputable online retailers. Treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around.
- Know the risk of public Wi-Fi.
Connection to Wi-Fi in a mall or coffee shop is convenient and often free, but it may not be safe. Hackers and cybercriminals can easily steal personal information from these networks. Always use a virtual private network when connecting to public Wi-Fi.