Are You Sharing Your Tax Return or Bank Statement Online?

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing networks exist so people can download free mp3 files, DVDs, movies, etc. They work by having each member of the network share some personal files while downloading files from other people’s computers. Share and share alike, right?

This has understandably driven the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) as well as the people in Hollywood crazy. So crazy that they are suing people they catch sharing copyrighted materials. We’re not going to go into the ethics either way on this argument. Maybe some other time…

The problem is that people are not only sharing their ripped CDs and DVDs, they’re also sharing (accidently, I’m guessing) sensitive files on their hard drive like tax returns, bank statements and cancelled checks.

A blogger recently decided to do a few searches on Gnutella, a major P2P network, for sensitive documents. It took him only 10 minutes to find a handful.

Take a look at what he dug up… (maybe it’s your tax return)

What is the lesson you should learn?

  1. Avoid P2P networks PERIOD! The software that enables the network is often full of spyware and the files you download can be infected with viruses and other malware. Not good.
  2. Keep control of other users on your computer, especially if they are teenagers. If they install file-sharing software on your computer it may be your tax return (along with your SSN, DOB, address, etc.) showing up all over the internet.
  3. If you do decide to use file sharing software, make sure you’ve clearly designated a single folder to share and make sure you don’t accidently drop your scanned bank statements in the folder.

Author: Dave Nielsen

I started using computers in 1978 on the Apple II and was first online (using my “high-speed” 1200 baud modem) in 1989. I’ve managed web sites for several Fortune 500 companies and for internet start-ups. Working for one of those start-ups is what brought me into the world of credit. I was part of the the executive team that ran QSpace, the first company to offer credit reports over the internet.

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