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Isn’t it bad enough you have to pay taxes? Do you also have to be in the cross-hairs of every cybercrook from Boca Raton to Bucharest?
Sadly, you have to pay taxes. And, even more sadly if you’re e-filing, cybercriminals everywhere are licking their chops just waiting for the opportunity to steal your refunds, your identity, your banking information and anything else they can lay their hands on.
According to Forbes, last year, more than 80 percent of taxpayers filed electronically. With the IRS promoting e-filing as an “easier and faster process,” even more taxpayers are expected to e-file this year. And that means billions of refund dollars are at risk.
“The information you provide an online tax preparation service is a goldmine for criminals who want to steal your identity,” said Alisdair Faulkner, chief products officer, ThreatMetrix. “Targeting e-filers is also attractive to cybercriminals because tax fraud is particularly difficult to detect. Unlike traditional tax filing, e-filing leaves no signed tax forms, envelopes or fingerprints.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, tax-identity theft exploded to more than 1.1 million cases in 2011, with an additional 1.5 million potentially fraudulent 2011 tax refunds discovered by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration last summer. To keep you from becoming a victim, ThreatMetrix has identified five precautions to take for safeguarding your accounts and personal data while e-filing:
1. Make Security Part of the Decision Process. Choose a tax preparation service or Website that provides bank level security, such as two-factor authentication and anti-malware protection.
2. Keep Your Eye on the Address Bar. Make sure any Web form you submit is HTTP Secure. An easy indicator is the “s” found after “http” in a Web address or the padlock icon typically found to the left of the Web address. In addition, make sure the address of each page is a valid IRS or tax preparation Website.
3. Watch for Suspicious Emails and Pop-ups. If a cybercriminal suspects you are filing taxes online, they may send you a “phishing” email asking for additional personal information. Although these may look like authentic requests, do not respond. No legitimate bank or tax preparation service would ask a user to enter sensitive information into a pop-up screen or into a link provided via email.
4. Safeguard Your Password. If you set up a username and password on an e-filing Website, make sure your password is unique from that of any other personal accounts – especially social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. If your password is the same across multiple profiles and one gets compromised, all your accounts will be at risk.
5. Update Your Devices. Even if you know the tax fraud facts and are cautious while e-filing, malware might still be on your computer to intercept data from legitimate Websites. Update the anti-virus and malware detection software on any device which you will enter tax information before you get started.
For more information and an infographic, visit http://threatmetrix.com/resource-center/infographics/.
Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Of course, if Ben were around today, he’d for sure have added cybercrime at tax time.