7 Tips to Help You File Your Taxes Online Safely

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee

Online fraud is a fast-growing crime, and during tax season, it makes sense that many filers may be concerned about the online privacy and safety of their personal data.

The ability for cybercriminals to be anonymous and conduct their crimes from anywhere in the world can make it very difficult, if not impossible, for law enforcement to curb online fraud.

Many aspects of life in the connected world can present opportunities for your personal information to be vulnerable. A major one is when you prepare and file your taxes online. So it’s smart to be aware of some of the security measures you can take to help protect your personal information if you plan to file taxes online this year.

Cybercriminals can target online tax filings

Cybercrime continues to evolve as avenues open up that allow cybercriminals to target consumers in new ways.

For example, during tax season, filers could encounter this scenario: During the process of filing your taxes, you may realize that it appears as if you have already filed your returns for the year. It’s possible that someone has filed a tax return using your Social Security number. As for the refund you were expecting to receive, it could already be in the hands of thieves and fraudsters.

When done correctly, there are several benefits to filing taxes online. E-filing can be less expensive than engaging a tax service, and you may get your tax refund quicker.

Best practices to file taxes online

Here are a few precautions and tips to help protect your online privacy and data when filing your tax return online.

1. Think security software

Install and run internet security software on all your devices. If your computers or devices are not protected by security software, cybercriminals could take advantage of vulnerabilities and access your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank accounts. With those details and others, such as scans of your W-2 form, cybercriminals could potentially file a tax return in your name. To help avoid this possibility, use trusted security software for all your devices, such as Norton 360 with LifeLock, which also includes identity theft protection.

2. Beware of “free”

Do some research before choosing free security software. If the provider doesn’t charge a fee, they could be paying their costs through advertising or from mining personal data contained on your device and selling it to third parties. Read the privacy policy and user reviews.

3. Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi

Avoid using public Wi-Fi when working on your tax return. Using public Wi-Fi, without a virtual private network (VPN) like Norton Secure VPN, can carry the risk of someone snooping on your online activity.

4. Create strong passwords

Use strong passwords on all your devices, and use different passwords on different accounts. A strong password uses a unique combination of letters, numbers, and other characters. A password manager can help you securely store and remember your passwords.

5. Update your software

Don’t ignore software updates. Make sure the device you’re using when filing taxes has the latest version of its operating system. Update all out-of-date software on your devices to stay current and protected against threats.

6. Check for encryption

Verify that sites use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. Look for the padlock icon in your browser. Make sure the URL begins with “https,” not just “http.”

7. Back up your data (and delete)

Back up all the data you uploaded to an external drive and delete all the tax-related information on the device you filed from after you’re done filing.

Practice cyber safety every day

These basic precautions are extra important during tax season, but can be applied year-round. All through the year, stay aware and cautious so that your data stays safe.

A few takeaways? Phishing messages, fraudulent email claiming to be from the IRS, and other unsolicited email attachments are notorious for injecting malware into your devices. Don’t give away your personal information freely. And help keep your data safe and your devices protected.

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