Did you now that the average person sends 10 emails a day? That’s a whopping 3,650 messages in just one year! And if you keep that pace up for five years, you’ll have sent over 18,000 emails! Those are a lot of instances where you can be attacked, and your information hacked. It’s not uncommon to come across news about data breaches these days. It’s scary to think that our personal information could be compromised and fall into the wrong hands.
What happens to the information inside the email?
It’s certainly hard to keep track of all the information, links, and attachments you’ve included in each message, not to mention who you’ve CC’d or BCC’d. A recipient can do all sorts of things with your message – forward it, copy it, screenshot it, or even read it out loud to others leaking your private information.
It’s easy to forget that email comes with inherent privacy and security risks, especially since it’s such a fundamental part of our daily lives. We’re definitely not here to scare you into giving up email and resorting to using carrier pigeons or telegrams (although that could be pretty cool!). However, we do want to encourage you to be mindful of how you use email and where your sensitive information may be at risk.
Email is not a secure method of communication, and it can be intercepted and read by unauthorized parties. Hackers and cybercriminals can easily access your email account or intercept your email messages, especially if you’re using public Wi-Fi or unsecured networks.
Don’t give away your personal information
It might sound simple, but one of the most common ways that people’s personal data is collected is by just asking for it. Whether it’s a cashier at a store, an online group, or a phishing email, we often hand over our information without even thinking twice.
You need to constantly be on the lookout for unsolicited emails that try to rush you into providing personal information by creating a “sense of urgency.” If you’re not sure why the service or transaction requires the information they’re asking for, then it’s okay to say no.
Also, avoid sharing confidential information over email or phone (unless you initiated the call) because you never know who might be listening in. Protecting yourself from data or identity theft doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require being cautious and taking simple steps to safeguard your personal information. Exercise caution when it comes to sharing sensitive information via email. Never include any personally identifiable information (PII) like your TFN, driver’s license, credit card numbers, or medical records in an email you send to us. Even photos of your passport or ID cards should not be sent via email.
Update your security and privacy settings
When it comes to mobile devices, it’s important to take a few steps to protect your personal information. First off, make sure your smartphone automatically locks when not in use. This way, if you lose your phone, no one who finds it will be able to access your sensitive data.
If your phone supports it, consider using fingerprint authentication instead of a simple passcode or swipe pattern. It’s an extra layer of security that can give you peace of mind.
Install the latest antivirus software and install patches
It’s important to be aware of the potential for computer viruses and malware that can cause serious damage to your computer and put your confidential information at risk. Cybercriminals are always looking for vulnerabilities in software, which is why it’s crucial to install software updates (also called patches) as soon as they become available from the software vendor.
Failing to update your software can leave your computer vulnerable to attacks like ransomware, which can hold your files hostage and demand payment for their release. By staying up-to-date with software patches, you can protect your computer and your personal information from these kinds of threats.
Identify who you’re sharing your personal information with
As tax accountants, it’s our job to work with your personal information. This includes everything from asking for your Tax File Number (TFN) to detailed financial information. Often people send us this information via email.
DO NOT SEND YOUR TAX FILE NUMBER TO US VIA EMAIL
Because of the cyber security risk, we will never ask for any tax file numbers to be sent to use via email. ITP Accounting Professionals use the latest in cyber security and fire walls to protect your data once they are in our systems, but we can’t protect the information before it’s sent to us.
Your tax file number (TFN) is a unique identifier that is used by the government to keep track of your income and taxes. If it falls into the wrong hands, it can be used to open bank accounts, apply for loans or credit cards, and file fraudulent tax returns, all without your knowledge or consent.
How do you give us information?
It’s easy. Our tax agents can access your TFN and information without the need for you to give us any details via email. All you need to do is tell us your name. We’ll confirm the details with you via a face-to-face appointment, zoom, phone call or text. We may ask you some identifier information to make sure we have the right person.
The ATO is responsible for managing and regulating the tax system in Australia. As a taxpayer, the ATO will have certain information on record about you, including your name, address, TFN, income details, employment history, and superannuation contributions. They will also have records of your tax returns, deductions, and any debts or payments owed to the ATO and as registered tax agents with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) we can also access that information through a secure government portal.
Why ask that your tax agent is registered with the TPB?
Other than adding another level of security for your private information, registration with the TPB is a legal requirement for anyone who wants to provide tax agent services for a fee. By being registered, tax agents can demonstrate to their clients that they have met certain professional standards and are authorized to provide these services.
Being registered with the TPB means that tax agents are subject to a code of conduct and ethical standards. This helps to ensure that they act in the best interests of their clients, and that they maintain high levels of integrity and professionalism.
The TPB provides oversight and regulatory functions for the tax agent profession. This includes monitoring the quality of services provided by tax agents, investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action when necessary. This helps to maintain the reputation of the tax agent profession, and to protect consumers from unscrupulous or incompetent practitioners.
Exercise caution when it comes to sharing sensitive information online. If you need to share your tax file number, it’s best to do it through a secure channel, such as a government website or a secure application. And always be careful about what you write in your emails, because once you hit send, you have no control over who will read them. If you’re unsure what to do, a phone call to one of our tax agents will help you work out exactly what you need to do. Phone 1800 367 487 and chat with a friendly professional today.