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Navigating Tax Day: How to steer clear of scams

As the end of March nears, so does the loom of Tax Day. With tax filers using technology more and more, there are several things to keep in mind so your taxes are filed safely, and cybercriminals don’t take advantage of your money. Although filing your taxes online is safe, you may be putting yourself at risk by not following certain guidelines.

Here are six tips to avoid tax phishing this season.

File your taxes before scammers can beat you to the punch

Don’t wait until April 17 to file your taxes. Doing so can put you at risk of having criminals file using your name to claim your tax return. Beat scammers at their own game by filing your taxes early. If you file your taxes first, then anyone who falsely tries to file under your identification will be denied.

Use a secure internet connection when filing

Filing in a non-public place is the best route to avoid cybercriminal activity, as using shared Wi-Fi puts your information at risk. If you have an Ethernet cable at your disposal, this is the safest internet connection possible to ensure that your internet is secure. If you don’t have an Ethernet cable, then using Wi-Fi with a secure password will perfectly suffice. Also make sure that any website URL you visit when entering tax information has an “https” at the beginning, as well as a lock icon to the left of the URL.

Be careful where your information is stored

If you’re filing your taxes online, don’t have any information easily accessible on your laptop. In addition, make sure that you don’t take photos on your phone of any tax information, because this will be available to hackers if your phone is stolen. Sensitive information should never be emailed or texted, as any hacker can gain access to this information.

Employers beware: don’t fall for fishy email requests about taxes

A common scam used by cybercriminals is posing as an employee via email and requesting a change in address or other personal information on a W-2 form. Make sure the request is authorized before changing any of your employees’ information. Call or speak to the employee in person to confirm that the change to the personal information is legitimate. Making sure that your employees’ information is not compromised should be a top priority and giving out their personal information can cause a lack of trust if information is stolen.

Educate others on best tax practices

Have a seminar or even a short meeting on best practices for filing your taxes. Let your employees know that simple steps such as having strong passwords and never opening attachments from unknown senders can make the difference between having your information safe and having information in the hands of a criminal.

Don’t trust emails from anyone claiming to be the IRS

If the IRS wants to reach you, it will do so through the mail. If you get an email from the “IRS,” this is a scam intended to get personal information from you. Smart hackers know that people are more likely to give information if they think it’s from the IRS and don’t want to get in trouble. If you receive any emails from someone claiming to be the IRS, delete the email and file your taxes as normal.

In the age of technology, cybercriminals have to constantly use new traps to be able to trick people into giving personal information.

But with some familiarity with what kind of scams are out there, you’ll be able to stop an attempted scam in its tracks.

Continually educating yourself on the latest scams is always a great plan that can help you keep your tax return safe and your mind at ease.

Shirley Peterson is the owner of CMIT Solutions of Fort Worth Downtown, which provides IT support to small and medium-sized businesses throughout the area.

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