The IRS Tax season officially opened on January 20th, and although the deadline is April 15th, working citizens should be well aware of how to protect themselves from fraud while preparing their e-file returns.
The Web is now flooded by warnings on how to protect your personal data and tax refund, as fraudsters are becoming more creative with every tax season. The fraudulent tax return filings have increased to 3,700% so far, and it’s not even close to the deadline yet, according to Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security.
The reason behind is the increased number of people filing out their tax forms online. As a result, more sensitive personal information is exposed online. Although It is easier for citizens to fill out their tax return online rather than physically going to an agency, they overlook the fact that there are even more dangers in the virtual space than in real life when it comes to protecting your personal data.
If you prepare your tax filing online, please consider the following:
- Do not use the same usernames and passwords on multiple websites – this way, if one of these websites is compromised, the others sharing the same login credentials are likely to be compromised too.
- Be alert on emails and notifications via social channels claiming to be sent by IRS and requesting your personal data. Such method of stealing sensitive data is called “phishing” and is particularly popular among cyber criminals. The IRS has officially reported on its website that it “doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. This includes requests for PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.”
- Beware of malware – whether it’s tax season or not, you must always secure your system to protect it from various viruses. There are malicious programs capable of monitoring and collecting data from you without your permission. That is why you must be careful what programs you download and what terms and conditions you agree to. Some websites may also be infected and you risk compromising your system just by a single click on that link. To stay protected, you can install a trustworthy anti-malware tool such as SpyHunter which could perform a full system scan, detect the malicious files and remove them.
- Do not use a public Wi-Fi connection to file your taxes – the information transmitted is easily accessible by cybercriminals this way.
In short – be alert on and offline when it comes to your personal data regardless of whether you are filing your tax returns or not. Do not disclose your personal information on random websites or to random emails with unverified senders. You have learnt whom to not trust on the street and who to avoid. You must be just as sharp and careful in the virtual world, too.