How to File Your Own Taxes Online Without the Threat of Data Theft

Taxes Online | How to File Your Own Taxes Online Without the Threat of Data Theft | You can cut out the middle man by learning how to file your own taxes. Here’s how to do it in a way that guarantees your safety and security.

In 2018, 12,000 people lost a combined $63 million to fake phone calls claiming to be the IRS.

While criminals have been using fake phone calls to bait people out of their personal information for decades, the latest and greatest threats are online. Cybercriminals can gain access to your tax information via poor passwords, outdated security software, and emails that seem to look legitimate.

If you’re partial to the efficiency of doing things online, you also need to be aware of how to protect yourself. Just a few simple tips can keep you safe while you file taxes online.

Keep reading to learn more about how to file your own taxes online without the threat of data theft.

How To File Your Own Taxes Safely

There’s no doubt that filing your taxes online is the fastest and easiest way to file taxes. The IRS has created online filing software to encourage people to go this route.

And although it saves you time and effort, it also makes you more vulnerable. Follow these simple tips for staying safe online while you file.

  1. Use Strong Passwords

Despite how important they are for safeguarding your information, the most common passwords are ‘123456’ and ‘password’. If you’re using any variation of these, it’s time to switch out all of your passwords for something more effective.

Strong passwords are those that use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and characters. They’re more difficult for you to remember but even more difficult for cybercriminals to guess. You can use a password manager to help you secure and remember them.

You should change any default passwords that you’re currently using. It’s also smart to use different passwords for different accounts and make sure that you’re using passwords on all of your devices.

  1. Use Security Software

Without security software on your devices, cybercriminals can easily gain access. Once they’re on your computer, they can access everything it stores. They can even install programs that record keystrokes, so passwords and other personal information are easily and quickly obtained.

Any time you’re online, you should be running security software. You also need to ensure that whatever software you use is updated as updates become available. Cybercriminals know how to exploit known vulnerabilities that are patched by updates.

  1. Avoid Public Networks

When you’re entering personal information online, it’s always best to use a WPA2 connection where possible and avoid using public wifi. Public wifi makes your computer and everything in it more vulnerable because they’re less secure than a private network.

If you have no choice but to use a public network, then you should think about using a virtual private network (VPN) while you do so. This can stop potential criminals from getting into your computer via the public settings.

  1. Make Sure You’re On The Right Site

On the IRS website, you can report your taxes, send payments, and even ask for refunds. The IRS Free File Software and Free Fillable Forms are supposed to be completely secure from unauthorized access. Plus, the companies the IRS has partnered with to set up this software are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission Privacy and Safeguards Rules as well as IRS e-file regulations.

Cybercriminals have found ways of creating websites that look very much like legitimate government sites. Always make sure you check the URL of the site you’re on to make sure it’s a real IRS site. A good way to be sure is checking that the site ends in “.gov”.

  1. Minimize Use of Your Email

If you’re working with someone who puts your taxes together for you, don’t send any information that they need via email. There isn’t much that protects emails from being intercepted.

Any time a tax preparer requires sensitive data, it’s better to give them that information over the phone. Alternatively, you can print and fill out important forms yourself and send them the old fashioned way. There are many places online that offer a printable w2 form 2019, for example.

Be Aware of Phishing and Malware Scams

Phishing and malware scams are often sent via email. There are other types of threats you need to be aware of if you file taxes online. 

Remember, the IRS never communicates to taxpayers via email. And if you ever receive one of these emails, delete it right away.

Phish-y Emails

These are emails that usually try to get the user to click on a link to a fake website. From this website, they’re asked for personal information that’s collected and used by cybercriminals. The sites might also contain malware, which gets into your computer and gives criminals access to everything you do.

The three most common emails are those that claim your tax return is restricted, that you need to update your tax filing information, or that the account on your tax software is locked. These might seem to come from the IRS or from the tax software company that you use. 

Malware Attachments

Instead of links, some emails come with malicious attachments. The goal here is to have the user open the attachment, which is usually some sort of spyware, remote access trojan, or backdoor malware. Once downloaded to your system, your personal information is vulnerable.

The most common emails associated with malware attachments are ones that tell you you’ve been deducted or that you’re receiving a refund. The attachment is usually in the form of a receipt.

More How-To’s

Knowing how to file your own taxes online while staying safe is becoming increasingly important. Cybercriminals find new and more devious ways of tricking taxpayers every year, including fake government websites and phishing emails. But staying safe is only a matter of using strong passwords, running security software, and keeping your computer off of vulnerable networks.

Now that you know how to stay safe this tax season, check out more of our how-to’s and tips.