Tip #1: Never send sensitive information over the Internet unencrypted
Many people don’t realize this, but regular email is not very secure (and regular email used over something like a public Wi-Fi network is very insecure). So documents containing information like social security numbers and bank account numbers should never be sent to your tax accountant via email unencrypted.
If your tax accountant needs this information, try to provide it to them in person at their office, over the phone, or in an encrypted document. Our favorite way to receive documents from tax clients is in person at our office on a flash drive or CD-ROM.
Our next-best way to share documents is to send them encrypted via the Internet. To make this as easy as possible, we provide clients with the option to send us files using Citrix’s ShareFile service (see our page about using ShareFile for more information).
Tip #2: Pick strong passwords for important accounts
It’s difficult to understate the importance of having a strong password. All the encryption in the world isn’t going to do you much good if a hacker can guess your password because it’s something like “password.”
A good password will be difficult to guess and it will be different than any other password you use for any other account. (Hackers will sometimes figure out your password by targeting a site with weak security, then once they have an email/password combination that works they’ll try it on sites with stronger security, like your online banking account.)
Tip #3: Always ask third parties how they’ll keep your information safe
If a third party requests your social security number or bank account number, they should have a good reason. Never be afraid to ask what they need the information for, and if they don’t have a good answer, don’t give it to them.
When third parties do legitimately need this information, it’s also a good idea to pay attention to how they talk about your security. Does it seem like they take it seriously? Or is encryption an afterthought, something they address only after you mention it?
Our firm will only ever ask for information like social security numbers or bank account numbers when we absolutely need them, and when we do need them, we’ll make every effort to obtain this information as securely as possible.