The tax deadline is right around the corner. While most dread this time of year, for obvious reasons, there are many cybercriminals out there lurking for your personal data. It is important you take the right precautions to stay secure this tax season.So, what is the worst that could possibly happen? To sum it up in just two words, identity theft. In 2014, $5.8 billion was given to identity thieves by the IRS due to fraudulent returns. Don't become a victim of identity theft by leaving your personal information open to cyber criminals.
If you haven't already, it is time to get ahead of the game. It is important that you file your taxes before the rush of tax season. This will not only ensure you a faster return, but it will give you time to complete the research below.
Do your research
You've probably heard this many times before, but it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to do your research before picking any sort of tax software. Research online tax service providers to see how secure their systems are. These websites need to have strong password standards, a lock-out feature that will block a user out if they have too many password attempts, email/text verification, and security questions. On the other hand, if you are using an accountant make sure you are looking for referrals. When it comes to preparing your taxes, the cheapest may not be the best.
Let's say you're sitting at a local coffee shop using WiFi and decide it is a good time to start filing your taxes. Don't do it! Never file your taxes using public WiFi. It is extremely important to use a secure connection. Be certain to use password protected WiFi and look for secure browsers (website URLs that start with "https" and display a small lock icon). It's also a good idea to use two-factor authentication. This means you will have to get through two password barriers before accessing your information, making it more difficult for a cybercriminal to obtain your personal information.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, it can take upwards of 600 hours to restore a stolen identity. Don't let yourself become part of a cyber crime. Just start early, do your research, and make sure you are practicing good security. Take the steps to ensure your valuable information remains protected, and you will be more than prepared when April 15th rolls around.