How to maintain security when filing taxes electronically
Millions of U.S. taxpayers have used electronic software applications like TuboTax.com to e-file their taxes, many doing so from the home desktops. Roughly six percent more consumers are using this method of submitting tax forms, than the numbers who did so in 2012.
Though e-filing is convenient and easy, it can create a risk to the taxpayer, with the filing of fraudulent tax forms and and identity theft. These undetected thieves were able to get away with over three and a half billion dollars in 2011, according to the Inspector General.
The following tips for protecting your information and identity are offered by experts in internet security
Don’t assume all emails genuinely originated from the Internal Revenue Service!
One method of committing fraud is to send an email to the taxpayer, pretending to be the IRS. This form of gaining access, known as phishing, allows malware access to the user’s computer, to gain access to important taxpayer information. The emails can look like official requests from the government office and may claim some kind of problem with a social security number or taxpayer information. Many taxpayers have provided such information, unaware they are handing it over to an imposter.
The IRS never sends emails or text messages to taxpayers, to clarify personal identity or correct taxpayer information. Any person who receives a suspicious email message should forward it to the IRS, without opening the message itself or any attachment.
Keep Personal Information Safe
Aside from being aware of false email messages, taxpayers can take additional measures to protect personal data. Using a different password for electronic tax filing, from those used for other internet accounts, is one safeguard that makes it more difficult for cyber criminals to get your information.
Avoid sending tax files to the IRS in public locations where wireless internet is available. These connections a re open to all users and can be accessed by anyone, thus improving the changes of gaining access to an individual’s personal computer. Home networks that are password protected are best for sending tax forms.
Social networking sites like facebook are other places criminals hang out to gain personal information. If your site includes minor children, the thief now knows you claim dependents on the tax return, which allows them to make fictitious tax returns look more like the real thing.
Breaches in internet security are another cause for concern. The recent incidents with Target, Sony, and other retailers shows how easy it can be for cyber thieves to get account and personal address information.
No Refund (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)
Though these incidents can occur, the internet e-file process is generally secure. There are red flags to look for the keep your information safe. Filing Taxes using the e-file method and software such as TurboTax.com can make the tax filing process a much simpler ordeal that saves time and money.