Filing your taxes online can be convenient, but it's important to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft. With the growing number of U.S. taxpayers filing taxes online, it's essential to know how to file taxes online safely.
Many forms of identity theft crimes are well known, such as thieves running up the credit card bills of victims or using their online checking accounts to make fraudulent purchases. But identity thieves can also use your personal information — such as your birthdate, address, and Social Security number — to take out personal loans in your name, pocketing the proceeds from these loans while sticking you with the payments.
The challenge? The more you use technology the more apt you could be to become a victim of identity theft. And if you file your taxes online, you're potentially exposing your personal information to a network of hackers and scammers.
Then there's tax-related identity theft. This is when criminals use your personal information to file a tax return in your name. What is the goal of these scammers? To steal your tax refund.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't file your taxes online. Filing taxes online is a convenient way to file your income tax returns, and fortunately, you can protect against identity theft crimes and still enjoy the convenience of filing your taxes online. It's all about taking the following steps to keep your personal and financial information private when filing your taxes online.
1. Get an IP PIN
Have you ever filed a tax return only to discover that someone else has already filed a return in your name? You can help prevent this type of identity theft by registering for an IP PIN.
This tool, an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number, is designed to make it more challenging for scammers to file false tax returns in the names of other taxpayers. An IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that you submit when you file your return. Identity thieves would need to know this six-digit number to file a false return in your name, offering you an extra layer of protection.
You can get your IP PIN by logging onto the Get an IPN tool offered by the IRS. You will have to verify your identity to do this.
2. Install security software
Install and run Internet security and antivirus software on all your devices. If your computers or devices are not protected by this software, cybercriminals could take advantage of vulnerabilities and access your personal information, such as your Social Security number, tax information, or bank accounts.
If you’re filing your taxes online, hackers can gain most of this information in one location. To help avoid this possibility, use trusted security software for all your devices.
Consider trusted security software like Norton 360 with LifeLock Select, which provides all-in-one protection for your devices, online privacy, and identity, and helps protect your private and financial information when you go online.
And when your software alerts you to an update, approve it quickly. Or set your system to allow automatic updates. Updates are often designed to target the latest viruses or security threats.
3. Avoid public Wi-Fi
It's best to avoid public Wi-Fi for anything related to your finances, including working on your tax return. Public Wi-Fi is notoriously easy for hackers to access. These criminals can spy on your keystrokes and learn your passwords. Armed with this information, they can access your online bank or credit card accounts. They might also be able to snag your Social Security number, which could help them file a tax return in your name.
If you must use public Wi-Fi only use it for unimportant tasks, such as reading your favorite blogs, checking the weather, or reading reviews of restaurants in your area.
4. Use a VPN
A virtual public network, or VPN, is a key tool to safeguard your privacy when filing your taxes online. A VPN encrypts your internet connection and makes it difficult for hackers to access your personal information. This can provide an extra layer of protection when filing your taxes online, especially when using public Wi-Fi.
Using a VPN, then, can hide your personal and financial information when you are filing your taxes online. You should always use a VPN when accessing your financial accounts or when you are sharing your financial information.
Consider a trusted virtual private network like Norton Secure VPN to help ensure your most sensitive information remains hidden from prying eyes.
5. Back up your data
Ransomware attacks are a serious issue. In these attacks, hackers infect your devices with malicious software that locks them, preventing you from accessing any of your files or information. The hackers behind these attacks then demand that you pay them a ransom — often in Bitcoin — to unlock your devices.
The best protection against these attacks, in addition to antivirus software, is to back up your data on an external drive or cloud account. Then, if your computer is being held hostage, you can still access your important data without having to pay a ransom.
This is important when filing your taxes online, too. While working on your taxes, back up all your financial data to an external drive. After you’re done filing, you can delete any tax information stored on your device and save it on your external drive. This will prevent hackers from uncovering this important information if they should infect your computer or other devices.
6. Create strong passwords
This is old advice, but it still holds true: You should always use strong, unique passwords at any important personal or financial sites. It’s more difficult for hackers to crack passwords that include a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
This is true, too, when you are using an online site or software to file your taxes. You want to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to access these sites, especially when doing so can give them access to your tax information.
7. Use two-factor authentication
Make sure to enable two-factor authentication if you’re filing your taxes online. With two-factor authentication, hackers must know not just your password and username to log onto a site, but also a secret code number.
The process works like this: When you log into a site equipped with two-factor authentication, you first enter your username and password like usual. The site then sends a code, usually a six-digit number, to one of your other devices, usually your phone. You’ll then enter the code to finish logging into the site.
Hackers, then, can’t log into the site unless they have access to the unique code. It’s one more layer of protection for your key financial information, and a step you should take when using online services to file your income taxes.
8. Use a reputable platform to file your taxes
When it comes to filing your taxes online, it's important to use a reputable platform. One of the safest options is to file your taxes directly through the IRS website at IRS.gov. The IRS website is a secure site and offers a variety of online services, including the ability to file your taxes electronically.
Another reputable option is to use a tax preparation software such as TurboTax. TurboTax is a well-known and trusted platform that allows you to file your taxes electronically. The software guides you through the tax filing process and can help ensure that you take advantage of all available deductions and credits.
When using either the IRS website or TurboTax, it's important to ensure that you are on a secure connection. Look for the "https" in the web address and a padlock icon in the address bar to indicate that the site is secure. Additionally, make sure to only use official websites and avoid clicking on links from unknown sources.
It's also important to keep in mind that while using a reputable platform can help protect your personal information, it's still essential to take the necessary steps to protect your personal and financial information, such as getting an IP PIN, installing security software, avoiding public Wi-Fi and using a VPN.
By following these guidelines, you can safely file your taxes online and protect your personal and financial information with the help of Norton cybersecurity company and reputable platforms such as the IRS website and TurboTax.
FAQs about how to file taxes online safely
Q: When are taxes due?
A: Taxes are typically due on April 15 of each year. However, if the 15 falls on a weekend or holiday, the due date may be extended to the next business day.
Q: Where is my tax refund?
A: You can check the status of your tax refund by visiting the IRS website and using the "Where's My Refund?" tool. You can also check the status of your refund by calling the IRS or using the IRS2Go mobile app.
Q: How do I file a tax extension?
A: You can file a tax extension by submitting Form 4868 to the IRS by the tax filing deadline. This form can be filed electronically or by mail. It's important to note that an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay any taxes owed.
Q: When is Tax Day 2023?
A: The Tax Day for year 2023 is on April 18.
Q: When will I get my tax refund?
A: The time it takes to receive your tax refund can vary. Generally, you can expect to receive your refund within 21 days if you filed electronically and within six weeks if you filed a paper return.
Q: How long does it take to get a tax refund?
A: The time it takes to receive your tax refund can vary. Generally, you can expect to receive your refund within 21 days if you filed electronically and within 6 weeks if you filed a paper return.
Q: When can you file taxes?
A: The tax filing season typically begins in January and ends on April 15 of each year. However, if you are unable to file your taxes by the April 15 deadline, you can request an extension.