You have enough to worry about at tax time. You are busy rounding up receipts, trying to remember how much you paid for your son’s broken leg last June, and trying to put a value on the dining room set you donated to charity. The last thing you need as you reluctantly slide toward April 15 is for someone to steal your identity or access your bank account.
Online tax preparation services and “do-it-yourself” tax software applications have dramatically increased in recent years, and so have the efforts of cyber crooks. As you generously write your check to Uncle Sam this year, remember a few simple security tips that will help you avoid adding insult to injury.
Web site security
Every Web site you use to enter sensitive information should be protected with SSL (secure sockets layer). Look in the privacy section (you know — the one that nobody ever reads) to verify the sites security features. You can also look for the TRUSTe emblem which will indicate that their procedures are secure and will keep your information private. All of the major tax preparation Web sites will have this protection, but be sure to check the credentials of smaller (and often cheaper) Web sites and services.
Data can be stolen at various times during this process: as you enter information, as you send it, or as you receive confirmation. Make sure that your Windows updates and patches have been installed and that your anti-virus/anti-spyware applications are up to date. If you will be using a wireless connection, it’s a good idea to review your security mechanisms relating to your router and Internet connection. When you use multiple sites for preparing taxes (i.e., online banking and a tax preparation Web site), be sure to use different passwords for each. If a hacker somehow gains access to one, the other will still remain secure.
An oft overlooked piece of advice for dealing with sensitive information is to perform regular backups. Whether through an online service or by saving files to an external hard drive or disk, backups will keep your information intact should a hacker successfully plant a virus in your machine. The last thing you need is for your tax information to be lost in cyberspace while April 15 looms near.
Each of these steps will help to keep your information safe during this busy time of the year. If you need help with any of these security measures, please feel free to contact Computer Problem Specialists at (928) 468-0000. We can help with anything computer related ... but we can’t tell you how much that dining room set was worth. Best of luck!
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.