Do People Realize What They Are Sending and the Risks Associated?

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Tax season is behind us (at least for most of us) and we can all give a sigh of relief… but can we? This year, getting my taxes organized and handing them to my accountant seemed to be more difficult than usual. Fortunately for me, the Federal Government gave certain areas that were dealing with flooding a small extension that allowed me to find the time to pass my taxes into my accountant.

Once that task was completed, I was able to relax except for the fact I now had one day to get back into the accountant’s office and sign the documents for them to send to the IRS.

In conversation, it was determined that all they needed was my signature on a form saying that I authorized them to file the taxes for me. So, I asked if they could just email the document to me and I would sign and send back to them. Arriving in the office that morning (taxes due today), I saw an email from them with an attachment waiting for me. I opened it thinking I would print, sign, scan, and send back for approval.

I opened the document to find that it was not just an authorization form, but a single page that contained my income, taxes, social security number, etc… with a  line for me to sign for authorization. Having been in the file transfer business for a number of years, I’m shocked that someone would be willing to send such a document via email.

All it would take is one mis-typed letter in my email address and this data could possibly have been in the hands of someone else. This is putting my identity, my financial information, as well as the accountant’s practice at risk. States such as Massachusetts, California, and many others have laws in place that strictly forbid any businesses to send electronic files that contain certain personal information. It’s clearly not something that people think about since they have become so accustomed to email and electronic communication.

Needless to say, I will plan better next year and if I don’t, the accountant’s office now has a secure file transfer system in place that will not place my data at risk.

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