Tax Season Safety

Filing taxes is not at the top of many people's list of favorite activities. To make matters even more unfavorable, tax season comes with its own set of security issues. And for those in the U.S., tax time is here.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has, in recent years, encouraged tax payers to file electronically. And many are turning to this option. The number of tax returns filed electronically has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the Associated Press; last year, over half of tax returns were filed electronically, and the IRS expects that figure to increase this year.

If you are one of the many who use the Internet to e-file tax returns, remember that what you submit contains personally identifiable information; in the hands of the wrong person, it's more than enough needed to steal your identity. If you plan to prepare and file your income tax returns with the help of tax preparation software, use a reputable tax e-filing program that treats your security as a top priority.

Effective strategies to stay safe from hackers and phishers this time of year in order to ensure that you do not leak your financial information and personal details, include the following:

  • Make sure your PC is secure with updated anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software.
  • Verify that the sites you're using are secure before entering confidential information.
  • Use strong, secure passwords for any important interactions.
  • If you're sending tax documents by e-mail to your accountant, encrypt your message so that no one else can access it. This can be done with file encryption software like Lavasoft's Digital Lock - File Encryptor.
  • After you're finished using files that contain sensitive information, permanently remove them from your PC with a digital file shredder, such as Lavasoft's File Shredder.

And finally, you will also need to be wary of socially engineered scams that are being stepped up as the April 15 tax deadline approaches. Each year at this time, scammers begin unleashing online tricks relating to fake audits, phony refunds, and supposed tax planning help. How can you stay safe? Ignore incoming e-mail that supposedly comes from the IRS. The IRS will not initiate communication with taxpayers through e-mail; that means the IRS will not request passwords or personal information through e-mail, and it also will not send out mass e-mail alerts.

To read more information about e-filing, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Erin Earley, Editor of Lavasoft News

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