How to safely file your taxes online

Emma McGowan 28 Feb 2023

Filing your taxes online can be a convenient and efficient way to get your taxes done, but it's important to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect yourself from cybercriminals.

As tax season approaches, many people are starting to think about how they will file their taxes. If you're like most people, you're probably considering filing your taxes online. It's convenient, fast, and can save you a lot of time and hassle. But before you start entering your personal information into online tax forms, it's important to be aware of the risks. Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to exploit online tax filings, and they can use your personal information for identity theft, fraud, and other illegal activities.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the number of tax-related identity theft cases has increased significantly in recent years. In 2021, the IRS received over 500,000 reports of tax-related identity theft, and this number is expected to continue growing. In fact, a study by the National Taxpayer Advocate found that tax-related identity theft was the most common type of identity theft reported to the IRS in 2021, accounting for over half of all identity theft cases. 

But don't let these statistics discourage you from filing your taxes online. While it's important to be cautious, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from cybercriminals. Plus, the benefits of filing your taxes online often far outweigh the risks. Not only is it faster and more convenient — it can also help you avoid mistakes and get your refund faster.  

Here are some best practices to follow when filing your taxes online: 

Use a secure internet connection 

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself when filing your taxes online is to use a secure internet connection. This means using a private, password-protected Wi-Fi network or a virtual private network (VPN). Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, as they are often unsecured and easy targets for cybercriminals. 

Use strong and unique passwords 

When creating accounts on tax preparation websites, be sure to use strong and unique passwords. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, and use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. It's also a good idea to use a password manager to generate and store your passwords securely. 

Use two-factor authentication 

Two-factor authentication is an extra layer of security that requires you to enter a code sent to your phone or email in addition to your password. This makes it much harder for cybercriminals to access your accounts, even if they manage to guess your password. Many tax preparation websites offer two-factor authentication, so be sure to enable it if it's available. 

Use reputable tax preparation software 

When choosing tax preparation software, it's important to use a reputable brand that has a proven track record of security. Look for software that offers secure data transmission, encryption, and other security measures to protect your personal information. 

Don't click on links in emails or texts 

Cybercriminals often use phishing attacks to trick people into revealing their personal information. These attacks can be emails or texts that appear to be from the IRS or a tax preparation website but are designed to steal your information. Be suspicious of any emails or texts that ask you to click on a link or enter your personal information, and never click on links or download attachments from unknown sources. 

Be wary of unfamiliar websites 

When filing your taxes online, be sure to use only reputable websites. Don't be tempted by offers of "discount" tax preparation services or "free" software. These websites may be fraudulent and designed to steal your personal information. 

Keep your software and devices up to date 

Keeping your software and devices up to date is one of the easiest and most effective ways to protect yourself from cybercriminals. Make sure to install the latest security updates and patches and use antivirus software to protect your devices. 

Filing your taxes online can be a convenient and efficient way to get your taxes done, but it's important to be aware of the risks and take steps to protect yourself from cybercriminals. By following these best practices, you can file your taxes online safely and securely, and enjoy the many benefits of online tax filing.  

Remember: It's always better to be cautious and take the time to protect your personal information. A little bit of extra effort can go a long way in keeping your information safe and secure. 


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