Millions of Americans file their federal income tax returns electronically. In fact, if your taxable income is less than $62,000 you are eligible to file your federal income tax return for free using the IRS Free File program. Filing your income tax return electronically can be both safe and convenient if done properly, but it also can be risky as evidenced by a recent study by the Online Trust Alliance, a nonprofit Internet Security firm which found that six of the thirteen companies used in the IRS Free File program had significant security issues that included failures to properly encrypt data. Here is a link to the Online Trust Alliance report: https://otalliance.org/system/files/files/initiative/documents/2016-ota-efileaudit.pdf
So what can you do to make your electronic filing more secure? Here is a list of good practices to follow:
- Install security software on your computer or other electronic device you are using to file your income tax return and keep the software updated with the latest security patches.
- Don’t file your income tax return using public Wifi.
- Don’t store your income tax return on your computer. Store it in a separate USB thumb drive.
- Beware of phony emails purporting to come from the company you are using to file your taxes that ask you to confirm your account information and password. Phishing emails that appear to be from TurboTax are presently circulating. Never provide information in response to such emails. If you think the email might be legitimate, contact the real company independently from the email and you will find that the initial email was a scam.
- Make sure that all communications regarding your income tax return are encrypted.
- Use dual factor authentication in addition to passwords such as one-time codes sent to your smartphone or fingerprints whenever possible.
- Use a unique password for your online income tax return.
- To make sure that the income tax website you are on is legitimate, look for the green trust indicator in your browser address bar which means that the website is legitimate and has an Extended Validation SSL Certificate, which is mandated by the IRS.