Make Tax Season Less Taxing—Safeguard your Account Information Online

In an era of electronic filing, direct deposit and direct payment, tax season has become another time during which online activity has steadily increased over recent years. Increased activity equals increased opportunity for fraudsters, so it is important to be extra cautious when sending documents, responding to emails and more. It is just as important to remember that there are multiple ways that a fraudster could gain access to accounts or information at any time of year:
  • Internet. Fraudsters use phishing emails or fraudulent websites to install malware on their victim's desktop by prompting them to click on a seemingly innocuous link. The link installs bad software without the victim's knowledge, which in turn, gives them access to everything that is typed into the computer (including usernames and passwords).

  • Phone. Fraudsters often pose as someone the victim knows or does business with to get them to share information. Alternatively, fraudsters can also pose as the victim to execute unauthorized transactions.

  • Purchasing Information. Fraudsters purchase information from the black market to duplicate debit or credit cards.

Below are a few best practices to always follow to help keep your accounts and account information safe:
  • Check your accounts. Check the accuracy of your credit card, debit card, bank and other account statements on a regular basis. If you see anything suspicious, contact your financial institution immediately.

  • Never give out your personal identification, financial information or usernames and passwords in emails. Malicious emails and phishing attacks are designed to look like legitimate communications from banks, money transfer services, package delivery services or government agencies, but they are not. Morgan Stanley will never ask you for this information via email, nor will banking personnel, government agencies or legitimate online businesses.

  • Create strong passwords. Passwords should be complex and unique for each online account in which financial transactions are conducted. Remember to update your password often.

  • Think before you click. Do not click on a link in an email or open a file attachment unless you are 100 percent sure that it has come from a legitimate source. Links in emails can take you to fraudulent sites that look identical to the legitimate site.

  • Think before you post. Social networking sites can provide a great deal of personal information that could be collected to access your accounts. Be aware of your privacy settings and do not post when you will be away.

  • Use the Morgan Stanley Online Mailbox whenever possible. The Morgan Stanley Online mailbox (also known as site mail) provides a secure way for you to exchange email and documents with Financial Advisors and support staff.

If you notice anything suspicious or believe you have been the victim of fraudulent activity, it is important to report it immediately. Visit the Morgan Stanley Online Security Center for additional information on whom to contact. Once the incident has been reported, there are additional steps you should take to safeguard your information:
  • Contact Service Providers to change verification information (i.e., "What is your mother's maiden name?") on websites that use them to confirm your identity.

  • Have your PC scanned for viruses or other malware, such as keystroke loggers.

  • Change the passwords on any sites used for financial transactions or that contain sensitive information, not just the one affected by the compromise.

  • Never respond to a request for personal or financial information without first verifying directly with the source.

At Morgan Stanley, protecting the online personal and account information of our clients is our top priority. Visit the Morgan Stanley Online Security Center to learn more about protecting yourself and where to go in the event of fraudulent activity.

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