Tips: E-Files Taxes Securely
Ben Franklin once said the only certainties in life were death and taxes. For the more than 100 million taxpayers expected to file their 2010 returns online, one more guarantee exists: with the proper security in place, filing taxes can be safe, fast and easy, despite threats of cyber criminals. AVG Technologies, developers of the world’s most popular free anti-virus software, offers tips for individual taxpayers filing their own 1040s online to stay protected and keep personal data exactly where it should be -- between the taxpayer and the IRS.
“Today e-file is the norm, but it’s important to not let your guard down,” said Roger Thompson, security evangelist for AVG. “Think about all the information needed to file taxes beyond a social security number -- including details on investments, retirement accounts, employment, property you own -- even your children’s childcare. In the hands of cyber criminals, your identity and more could be at risk, but you can outsmart thieves by layering your online security for full protection.”
As such, here are AVG’s top electronic filing tips:
- Vet websites claiming to be free e-file services -- Do your homework before selecting a third-party site for filing your taxes. Read online reviews to find a reliable, trusted site that works best for your needs. Before you log on, double-check the site you’ve selected is listed on IRS.gov.
- Evaluate mobile apps on your smartphone -- If you plan to file a simple return or track the progress of your return via your mobile device, do you homework just as you would if filing on your personal computer. Ensure the app you select is from a trustworthy source, read the reviews and pay attention to its ratings before downloading. Also remember not just your tax time app can cause harm. Consider all third-party open source libraries, apps and components that may harbor bugs and malicious code on your smartphone to protect your personal information when you file and every day.
- Use a trusted Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection -- While you could file your taxes on your smartphone or laptop from the neighborhood coffee shop, the airport or even a fast food establishment, simply don’t. File from home, or the office, where you have a firewall in place and internet security installed on the network.
- Update your computer’s anti-virus software -- New online threats are discovered every day. The first line of defense against these attacks is an up-to-date anti-virus program on your computer or smartphone. While getting all your documentation in line, run an update on your system’s security software to ensure you’re fully protected
- Don’t believe an email from the IRS -- The IRS does not email individual taxpayers. If you get an email from the IRS, do not click on any links. Mark it as spam, and move on. You can go to IRS.gov to report the phishing scam or call the IRS at (800) 829-1040 if you suspect that you have received a fraudulent notice. But rest assured the IRS will not notify you that you’re being audited via email.
- Email over fax -- If you’re compiling taxes with your tax preparer or family members from multiple locations, think twice before faxing sensitive materials back and forth. Email is far more secure, especially if sent and received via a secure Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection and a computer with up-to-date antivirus software. Also ensure you don’t leave those files sitting on your email server to collect virtual dust. Delete and store them securely to protect yourself from future attacks, long after this year’s April 18 filing date.
“U.S. taxpayers have filed nearly 1 billion 1040 series tax returns safely and securely according to the IRS. With layers of protection, including a secure network, protected computer or mobile device and cautious use of email and third-party websites, filing online can be safe and efficient for everyone,” said Thompson.