Top 4 Ways to Keep Tax Documents Safe and Secure
Tax season is here and with that comes the risk of having sensitive personal information stolen...digitally! What does that mean? Worst case, your identity gets stolen. Best case, whoever stole it doesn't use it or sell it. So, here are the top 4 ways that can help protect you personally and professionally.
1. Use Sharing Software
Email is probably the least secure way to transfer files. Here's a great article explaining why email is not secure. There are probably hundreds of programs out there that offer safe and secure document and file sharing solutions. Here are a few free easy to use options:
Google Drive - cloud-based solution. The great thing about Google Drive is you can create a folder and share it with another user. It keeps your documents safe in the cloud and your accountant can access them anytime.
WeTransfer: Free and Pro version available. You can find the features of each HERE. The free version allows you to transfer up to 2GB file.
2. Encrypt Emails
It's pretty hard not to use email. So, if you do plan on using email to deliver sensitive information make sure that you encrypt the message. This will scramble the email and make it readable only to the recipient.
3. Hand Deliver or Mail
We live in a digital age, but this is still probably the safest way to deliver your sensitive tax documents to your accountant. But, some safeguards should be put into place.
Mailing - add a "required signature" option when mail is delivered. This will create an audit trail as to who collected the documents.
Hand Delivery - deliver the documents in a sealed envelope. Make sure your accountant stores it securely in their briefcase/bag right away or you at least see them leave with it in hand.
4. Know What Information is Sensitive
You can use the options above to protect your information, but you need to understand what information is sensitive. Norton (Anti-virus) suggest classifying information into 3 categories: low-sensitivity, medium-sensitivity, and high-sensitivity. You can check out the article here.
Low-sensitivity - full name, address, and phone number
Medium-sensitivity - date of birth, place of birth, and mother's maiden name
High-sensitivity - bank account numbers, social insurance number (SIN#), pin numbers, credit card numbers, and passwords.
Thousands, if not, millions of identity thefts happen every year in North America. Having an "it won't happen to me" mentality is not the best way to protect your information. There are cost-free ways to keep your information secure and safe. Do your research, find the method that works best for you and ask your accountant to use the same methods you do.