BUFFALO, N.Y. - There's nothing more sacred on the Internet than your financial information.
That's why it's often targeted by hackers. But there are common sense steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of such an attack.
William Prohn, the managing director at Dopkins & Company Certified Public Accountants in Buffalo, said the most common-sense protection is to make sure you're not using the same password for all your online accounts.
Because if someone hacks, say, your Facebook page, there's no telling where it will lead them.
"What will happen is-- that hacker will start logging into banks at random, putting in your username and password," Prohn said. "And see if they can break into your account."
You also want to make sure you know who's actually emailing you. Sophisticated hackers have now started launching phishing scams, which is when a scammer sends you an email pretending to be someone you already know. They're essentially trying to trick you into giving out personal information like bank account records or credit card numbers.
"We've seen it with some of our clients," Prohn said, "where the accounting department will get an email saying it's coming from the boss, saying, 'I'm buying a business-- I need a transaction'."
But these are all ploys from scammers.
To avoid this:
1) Don't click on links or attachments from emails that seem out of the ordinary
2) Don't send your personal or financial info in any emails
3) If you're in a business, have a procedure in place to not follow directions of an email without confirming its content
And lately, tax return scams have been in the news-- like in southern Illinois, where scammers targeted a steel company and filed tax returns on behalf of employees before they could get their refund.
The I-R-S sent out an urgent alert earlier this month, saying these types of scams are targeting schools, restaurants and even hospitals.
"The IRS is recommending you file your taxes as soon as possible," Prohn said, "but I think there's less of a threat this year because they've made their website a lot more secure."