Seven Steps to Keep Your Tax Information Secure Online

During the online holiday shopping season, the Delaware Division of Revenue is joining with the IRS, other state tax agencies and the tax industry to mark “National Tax Security Awareness Week.” From November 27 through December 1, we’d like to remind people to be vigilant with their personal information. While you are shopping for gifts, criminals are shopping for credit card numbers, financial account information, Social Security numbers and other sensitive data that could help them file a fraudulent tax return.

Cyber criminals seek to turn stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new credit accounts or even using stolen identities to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund. Anyone who has an online presence should take a few simple steps that could go a long way to protecting their identity and personal information.

Here are seven steps to help with online safety and protecting tax returns and refunds in 2018:

  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites using the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL are secure. Look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar. But remember, even bad actors may obtain a security certificate so the “s” may not vouch for the site’s legitimacy.
  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Beware of making purchases at unfamiliar sites or clicking on links from pop-up ads. Unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots also may allow thieves to view transactions. Do not engage in online financial transactions if using unprotected public Wi-Fi.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails that pose as a trusted source such as those from financial institutions or the IRS. These emails may suggest a password is expiring or an account update is needed. The criminal’s goal is to entice users to open a link or attachment. The link may take users to a fake website that will steal usernames and passwords or an attachment may download malware that tracks keystrokes.
  • Keep a clean machine. This applies to all devices — computers, phones and tablets. Use security software to protect against malware that may steal data and viruses that may damage files. Set it to update automatically so that it always has the latest security defenses. Make sure firewalls and browser defenses are always active. Avoid “free” security scans or pop-up advertisements for security software.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters, but longer is better. Avoid using a specific word; longer phrases are better. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Use a different password for each account. If you can’t remember all your passwords, use a password manager, which securely stores the passwords for you.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. Some financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow users to set accounts for multi-factor authentication, meaning users may need a security code, usually sent as a text to a mobile phone, in addition to usernames and passwords. For added protection, some financial institutions also will send email or text alerts when there is a withdrawal or change to the account. Generally, users can check account profiles at these locations to see what added protections may be available.
  • Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. If keeping financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on computers, this data should be encrypted and protected by a strong password. Also, back-up important data to an external source such as an external hard drive. When disposing of computers, mobile phones or tablets, make sure to wipe the hard drive of all information before throwing it away.

There are also a few additional steps people can take a few times a year to make sure they have not become an identity theft victim. Receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Check it to make sure there are no credit changes that don’t look familiar. Create a “My Social Security” account online with the Social Security Administration which can be used to see how much income is attributed to your SSN annually. This can help determine if someone else is using your SSN for employment purposes.

The Division of Revenue, the IRS, and the tax industry are committed to working together to fight against tax-related identity theft and to protect taxpayers. Visit the “Taxes. Security. Together.” awareness campaign, or review IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers for additional information.


Delaware Earns Universal Triple-A Credit Rating

Delaware has received a triple-A credit rating from all three major rating agencies – the highest mark a government agency can achieve. Highlighting the state’s fiscally responsible approach, Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings, and Standard & Poor’s Rating Services have recognized the state’s strong fiscal practices, as well as the strength of Delaware’s economy and labor market.

“These reports affirm our progress in strengthening Delaware’s economy, while budgeting responsibly,” said Governor Jack Markell. “Recognition of Delaware as one of the top rated states shows Delaware is well-positioned for continued success. However, our work is never finished. We must continue efforts to prepare our workers with the skills they need to compete for jobs, foster a nurturing environment for businesses to start and expand in the state, and ensure our budget is sustainable for years to come.”

The reports take into account expected workforce reductions in the first quarter of 2016 due to the DuPont merger with Dow Chemical, but cite positive trends and continued growth in other employment areas – including business services, financial activities, education, health, leisure and hospitality.

In its analysis, Standard and Poor’s pointed to Delaware’s “diverse economy,” “strong financial and budget management,” “consistently strong general fund reserves,” “moderate overall debt burden,” and “well-funded pension system.”

Delaware has now earned the top rating from all agencies for the past 16 years, including through the recent economic recession and ongoing recovery.

“Delaware has maintained its triple-A ratings through some challenging economic cycles – in large measure due to our disciplined adherence to responsible fiscal practices and focus on economic development,” said Secretary of Finance Thomas J. Cook. “Even through the Great Recession, this administration has maintained the highest possible credit ratings through strong financial management and fiscal discipline, while improving our business climate. The confirmation of our rating will translate to the lowest cost of capital, permitting greater investment in the essential infrastructure that is essential to attracting new business and spurring job creation.”

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Leslie A. Poland
Public Information Officer
Delaware Department of Finance
(302) 577-8522
leslie.poland@delaware.gov


Credit Rating Agencies Affirm Delaware’s Triple-A Rating

Bond agencies continue to measure Delaware’s credit risk favorably

In their review for the state’s upcoming bond sale, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, Fitch Ratings, and Moody’s Investors Service have all awarded Delaware a triple-A credit rating, the highest rating possible. All three ratings agencies highlight Delaware’s financial history and responsible governance in their reports. S&P attributed the state’s continued credit stability to Delaware’s prudent fiscal management and healthy reserves, while Moody’s said Delaware is in a strong position relative to its peers. The State has proudly received triple, triple-A ratings since 2000, managing to maintain that status even through the Great Recession and a challenging national economy.

“These ratings affirm the success we have had in addressing our budget challenges while adhering to high standards of fiscal responsibility,”  Governor Markell said. “This announcement means taxpayers will continue to benefit from lower costs for important projects that create jobs and improve quality of life in our state, including construction at schools, libraries and other facilities. There is more work to do to strengthen Delaware’s economy, but we are on the right track.”

The ratings were released as the state prepares to take bids on $225 million in general obligation bonds on Thursday, February 27th.  The bonds will be sold to finance capital construction projects, for example, school projects in Laurel, Smyrna, Red Clay and Woodbridge, libraries in Wilmington, Claymont, Lewes and Greenwood, a new state police troop and various other projects that improve the quality of life in Delaware.  The triple-A rating reflects a low credit risk which minimizes the return investors demand and minimizes the cost of these capital projects for Delawareans.

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Contact:

Angela Moffett-Batty
Community Relations Coordinator
Delaware Department of Finance
302-577-8522
angela.moffett@delaware.gov