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IRS, Partners Urge Strong Passwords Help Protect Identities at Tax Time and Beyond

IRS Taxes. Security. Together. Tax Tip Number 4, December 5, 2016                        Español

The Internal Revenue Services and its partners, in the fight against identity theft, urge computer users to strengthen their passwords.

The password serves as the first line of defense to stop hackers and identity thieves from accessing your computer, mobile phone and other internet-accessible devices.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax professional industry are asking for your help in their effort to combat identity theft and fraudulent tax returns. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

That’s why we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

Here are a few basic steps to making passwords better and stronger:

  1. Add password protections to all devices. You should use a password to protect any device that gives you that opportunity. Not only your computer, tablet or mobile phone but also your wireless network. The password is your first line of defense.
  2. Change all factory password settings. If your device comes with factory password settings, for example the camera on your laptop, change it immediately.  
  3. Longer is better. A password should be a minimum of eight digits but 10 to 12 is even better. It should be a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not use your name or birth date.
  4. Do not repeat passwords. These days, people often have multiple, password-protected accounts. Do not use the same password repeatedly. Should a thief steal your password, he immediately will have access to other important accounts. Use different passwords, especially on important financial or tax accounts.  
  5. Use two-factor authentication options. Many social media and financial institutions now give you the option of setting up a two-factor or two-step authentication process. A two-factor process involves a security code being sent to your registered mobile phone. This means if a thief manages to steal your user name and password, he will be blocked from accessing your accounts
  6. Consider a password manager. One option for keeping track of your passwords on multiple accounts and getting help in creating strong passwords is to use a password manager. Some reputable companies offer free or low-cost versions of their products. See if a password manager might be right for you.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiative to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. Also read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

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