Whether you’re doing it yourself or paying a professional, filing your taxes electronically is the fastest – and easiest – way to pay Uncle Sam his due.
But there’s a reason security experts call this time of year “Christmas for hackers” – so much sensitive personal information is flying around the Internet, and those who would steal your identity are looking for holes and weaknesses. Once they get the information you use to file your taxes, there’s nothing to stop a thief from filing a tax return in your name and stealing your identity.
Take a few easy steps, though, and you can protect your information and still files your taxes online.
Clean Things Up
Before you start doing your taxes, make sure your computer is free of viruses and malware. Run your antivirus software to scan for and eliminate any suspicious programs on your computer. If you’ve noticed that your computer has slowed down, takes a long time to boot up, or pops random errors, get your computer looked at by a professional. (We can help!) These can be symptoms of an infection.
Once your computer is clean, update all the software you will need to file your taxes. This includes your operating system, tax software, and web browser, of course, but don’t forget other programs that the websites you use for filing taxes might need – that includes plug ins like Flash or other media players. Updated software includes security patches and upgrades that protect you.
Secure Your Connection
Prepare and file your taxes over a secure network – if you’re at home, make sure your home network is password protected, not open for anyone to use. Your computer and router should have strong passwords. What makes a strong password? Get our tips here.
Be Smart Online
Careful online behavior can keep your information protected:
- Before you enter personal information, make sure you’re on a secure website (look for the https) and that you have the right address. For example, the IRS website is IRS.gov not IRS.com.
- Don’t share personal information like your social security number, address, salary, etc. online. Would you believe some people have actually posted pictures of their W-2 forms?
- You get a free credit report every year – use it! The information on the report can alert you to any unusual activity.
Experts also suggest that you file early. A hacker is going to try to beat you to the punch, and most people won’t know a fraudulent return has been filed in their name until they file their legitimate tax return. Get yours done as early as you can.
Tips for Protecting Your Identity
Staying safe at tax time is just one way to protect your identity from theft. Follow these tips to keep your personal information safe:
- Know who you’re sharing with
- Protect paper documents
- Carry only what you need
- Be careful online
- Stay in the know – get that credit report!
Are your computer and network ready for tax season? Call PNSolutions today for a security evaluation!