It’s no April Fool’s joke. Taxes are due in fifteen days.

Whether you’re a pro at e-filing or you’re just attempting it for the first time this year, it can certainly be a time saver when it comes to tax season. However, if you’re going to take your taxes into your hands, make sure you’re just as diligent with your security. Getting a hold of sensitive tax documents is a cyber criminal’s jackpot. So how can you keep your data safe?

  1. Before you open a single tax program, go through a mental checklist for the computer your filing on. Is the computer up to date with its software? If not, update immediately. The old software may have weaknesses that criminals can hack. Also, who uses this computer? Is it your personal computer? Is it a family computer? If you’re not the only one using the device, make sure other people (specifically kids) haven’t visited sites that could infect your computer with malware.
  2. Your computer’s good to go? Great. Create that tax account. But make sure your password is extra, EXTRA secure. And don’t store that login information anywhere on your computer.
  3. When you e-file, digital tax documents are created. They can be emailed to you, downloaded, etc. This can be the most dangerous part of the e-filing process. If all this PII (personal identifiable information) fell into the wrong hands, that criminal could create false tax returns and possibly haunt you in a million other ways. After all, if someone has your full name, address, social security number, employer, etc, they’ve got everything they’d ever need in order to steal your identity. Don’t store these sensitive documents on the computer. Print them out and tuck them away. Or put the digital files on an external hard drive. Keep things separate.
  4. Also, be aware of what’s being sent in your email. A lot of tax services will email you account numbers, reference numbers, logins, passwords, etc. Be vigilant with your email platform. Don’t keep those sensitive emails, if you can help it. Because if a malicious hacker ever breaches your account, they have access to everything!
  5. Smartphones make things even easier these days. Don’t have time to sit down at a desk and file on a laptop? There’s an app for that. But beware of filing taxes over an app–even if it seems legitimate. Apps can be a cyber criminal’s playground and it’s easy to trick a person into downloading a seemingly reputable app that’s infected with devastating malware. Click here to learn more.

E-filing can be a quick, easy way to go about filing your taxes (especially with fifteen days left in the countdown!), but do it cautiously to make sure it doesn’t end up costing your identity in the end.

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