They’re one of the two certainties in life: taxes. And they’re due in less than one month. So if you’re one of the millions of Americans scrambling to file in time, and if you are looking to your computer, your phone or your tablet for speedy help, make sure you think about your online privacy first.
This year marks the first tax-filing season that the IRS won’t be mailing its forms. Digital delivery is now standard, but Americans are more and more concerned that their personal and financial information may be compromised if they turn to the Web for tax help. A new poll, commissioned by the online tax preparation website Taxsoftware.com, showed that 49% of Americans are either ‘somewhat or very concerned’ about using their desktop computers to file their taxes online.
And they should be: the issue of privacy inevitably comes up when financial records go online. But instead of worrying, take action. Here are the top 5 things you should be doing to protect your personal and financial information online:
- Look for secure connection and encryption on sensitive information like social security numbers.
- Don’t file your taxes from a Wi-Fi spot or using a Wi-Fi connection. Make sure your wireless Internet connection is protected with a network key, and that you’re using a secure computer with a solid firewall and updated anti-virus and anti-malware programs.
- Password protect your laptops, smartphones and tablets to protect your private information if your device is lost or stolen.
- Set up remote phone locks on your smartphone and GPS tracking software such as “Find my iPhone” for your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad to stop thieves.
- Download security software for your smartphone as well as your computer, including updated antivirus software, a two-way firewall and updated spyware removal software.
If you do have concerns about filing taxes online, or believe that your online privacy may have been breached, can contact the Federal Trade Commission to find out more about your rights or to file a complaint.
The IRS has also implemented six security, privacy and business standards online tax preparation providers must follow in an effort to protect taxpayers’ privacy. Taxpayers are also protected by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that requires financial companies offering products to consumers to explain how they share the information consumers provide them and how they protect that information.
For more information on those safeguards, you can read the Comparing Tax Software: Online Guide or visit the File Your Tax Returns for Free With Free File Through the IRS site.