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Sending Out an SOS (six on safety): Six Security Tips for Safe Online Tax Filing

Created: 07 Apr 2010 • Updated: 18 Dec 2012
Tim Callan's picture
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For all you tax procrastinators, time is nearly up. But don't fret. Just follow these six safety tips to help you stay protected when filing taxes online while maintaining your sanity.

The number of people filing taxes online is up this year from the previous; according to the IRS, more than 82% of the 69 million returns received so far this year have come in via e-file, and home usage of e-file is up almost seven percent compared to this time last year.

With the increase of online tax filing, identity thieves and hackers have decided to capitalize on this upward trend by creating phishing sites claiming to be the IRS. The IRS warns users that there is only one official IRS web site, IRS.gov, and that the service will never initiate contact with taxpayers via e-mail. Recent research reported that more than 1500 domains hosted IRS phishing scams this past February, which surpassed the more than 800 seen in April of 2009. Beware of these occurrences and make sure that you protect yourself and your identity by following the six safety tips below:

Make sure to

  • Look for the green address bar which is used today by leading tax filing sites to ensure that you've reached the correct site. The green address bar, recommended by the IRS, is displayed on sites protected by Extended Validation SSL Certificates. Don't see the green address bar? Make sure you are using the latest version of your web browser.
  • Look for https:// when entering your personal information to ensure that your session is secured
  • Log out of your session when you finish filing your taxes. If you don't log out, fraudsters can potentially log in to your session after you leave the site if you are working from a public computer.
  • Be skeptical of e-mail that features web links. Those links can be part of a phishing scam that takes you to lookalike pages designated to steal your personally identifiable information (PII). Avoid replying or clicking on links that take you to suspicious sites. You should delete these messages. If you need to log in, do so independently and though the usual login page and not by clicking on a link.
  • Watch this important video brought to you by the IRS to find out how to handle phishing emails.
  • Do not respond to any tax issues or requests using fax or e-mail. The IRS will never request personal information via fax or e-mail.
  • Prevent yourself from falling victim to tax scams, check out the IRS's list of tax scams/consumer alerts that have been flagged as fraudulent.

And keep in mind that if you need to make last minute copies, VeriSign seal poster Staples is offering free copies of 2010 Tax Returns from March 27 through April 15.

[4/12/10] A shout out to alert reader Paige for pointing out that my "six" tax tips are really seven. Good thing I'm not here for my math skills. :)