Filing your tax returns is now more convenient that ever since you can easily do it online. However, just like everything else done online, people are concerned about their privacy and data. One question keeps coming up from time to time, is it safe to file my taxes online?
To guarantee that anything done online is safe would be a lie. There is an upsurge of online frauds and I can’t think of any online activity that is not a target of fraudsters. Cyber criminals are becoming smarter. That is something you hear every day but it is the truth.
There are no hopes of ever curbing online frauds in the near future. In fact, the probability dims by the day. So you understand that although filing your taxes online is convenient, there are risks involved just like with any other online activity.
How Cybercriminals can target online tax filings
You are probably wondering how cybercriminals can stand in the way of you filing your taxes online. But as we have already mentioned countless times, online fraudsters are highly opportunistic. They will jump at any opportunity that can enable them accomplish their deeds.
Online tax filing just happens to be one of those opportunities. For example, a lot of people have encountered a situation where they try to E-file their returns only to realize that it is already filed even though they didn’t do it.
So who did it? Someone who has your social security number. But that is not a bad thing, right? They did the hard work for you after all. No, they are not exactly the good guys. If you were, for instance, expecting any refunds you would never see them. Plus someone you don’t know having your social security number is already bad enough.
But that does not mean that you will definitely become a victim of online fraud if you do your taxes over the internet.
There are some safety measures you can undertake when filing your returns to ensure that you are as safe as possible. The point is not just to do it, but do it correctly and safely.
The following are some of the best practices to adhere to when E-filing your tax returns.
1. Install the latest security software
We have previously talked about why it is very important to keep all your software up to date. E-filing is one of the reasons why your computer should be protected at all costs.
The fact that you are using your computer or phone to file taxes online means that it holds a lot of sensitive financial information. If a cybercriminal ever got to that device and accessed that information, your financial life would be doomed. Am talking about social security numbers, bank account information, scanned W-2 forms and so on.
But that doesn’t have to happen. If you know you will be E-filing your tax returns, it pays to protect your device upfront. How do you do that? By installing the latest internet security software and then regularly updating it.
Otherwise, cyber criminals will capitalize on the vulnerabilities on your internet security system and steal crucial tax information.
2. Avoid Free Security Software
We have already looked at why it is important to protect all your devices with the latest internet security software. But if you are already googling for “Best free security software”, you need to stop right now.
Free is not always free. If you ever come across a ‘free’ internet security software there are a number of deductions we can make about it:
1. It is good for nothing
2. It is filled with ads
3. It will steal your personal information and sell to third parties.
3. Don’t file your tax returns using public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is like delicious junk food. You get warned about it every day but you still use it anyway. Who do I blame? Data plans are expensive and here is something free of charge.
It is okay to use for normal browsing and maybe social media but when it comes to sensitive activities like filing your tax returns, you might want to be careful.
If you must absolutely use it, then at least use a secure VPN. Otherwise, someone can snoop on your online activity and steal some important info.
4. Create strong passwords
Another cliché in the online security space. This is one is like a good advice that one cares about only to regret it later. I can’t remember reading anything about online security that doesn’t mention creating strong passwords.
But I will tell you this once more and a thousand more times after this and then a thousand more. You need to create strong passwords on all your devices and online financial accounts.
It is advisable to use different passwords for different accounts. You don’t want a situation where one of your accounts gets hacked and the rest are at risk. If I was a black-hat hacker, I would try using the same password for all your accounts.
If you can’t think of any strong password, use password generator tools. They are everywhere and all they ask is that you view their ads while they cook up your password. Everybody wins.
5. Only Use Encrypted Sites
If you are going to file your returns online, do it over an encrypted site. Check their URL to see if they start with ‘https’ instead of just ‘http’. The ‘s’ in ‘https’ means that the site is secure and no one can snoop on your activity.
Filing tax returns online is as convenient as it is risky. You have to be very careful during the tax season to ensure that cybercriminals do not take advantage of your lack of internet security knowledge to damage your life.
Use the above tips every time you E-file your tax returns and make sure to educate those who don’t understand. You should also be careful of unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS and offering to help with your tax returns.
If you can’t do it yourself, find someone you trust who can.