More of us are online entering personal and sensitive data than ever before, increasing the risk for malicious malware and infections. It used to be all you had to do was check to make sure a site was secure (“https” not “http”), but no more.
Scammers know that we are often too quick on the trigger or eager to see our returns when logging in or entering personal data. They are waiting to take advantage of our slips by sending fake IRS links that redirect to phishing sites that steal any sensitive data. (For other tax scams, go here.) Also, scammers know that on-the-go taxpayers will log in on unsecured networks to file taxes, and they are just waiting to get personal data through an unencrypted connection. (For those of you waiting around in a snow-bound airport right now, I mean you.)
To stay safe during the tax season, check these relatively simple recommendations (from Webroot, a Colorado-based company that develops products including email, Web and archiving security services for businesses, and anti-malware, privacy and identity protection for consumers):
• Even if you are not filing online, if you prepare your taxes on computers connected to the Internet be sure you are running updated versions of a proven antispyware/antivirus software and scan your system at least once a week, but definitely before preparing and/or filing taxes
• For Federal electronic filings and document lookups, do NOT use search engines and go directly linked to http://www.irs.gov/
• Do not respond to any email inquiries regarding your taxes with sensitive information
• If you plan to file your state taxes online be sure to only use links directly from your official state homepage. Links to the official websites for all 50 states are available at http://us.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml
• When you are finished filing taxes and using security passwords, you should also use privacy software for erasing important data from your system
So play it safe this tax season, and get that big refund – unharmed.