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Filing taxes is faster than ever with the many options for filing over the Internet. However, faster doesn’t necessarily mean safer. Tax returns contain sensitive information such as social security numbers, dependent information, family income and personal investments that need to be kept private. A hacker who has access to your computer, as the result of a virus infection or unsecured wireless network, could take advantage of that information.
Here are tips to consider when filing your taxes online, to help protect private information:
- Safeguard your computer and data - Help defend against unauthorized access by ensuring your computer is protected with an all-in-one security product. If you are lacking complete protection for your computer, consider downloading the Charter Security Suite™. It’s easy to use and included with your Charter Internet™ Plus or Ultra service.† Click here for more information.
- Ensure your computer has the latest critical updates - Your operating system and installed software could have "holes" or "vulnerabilities" a hacker could exploit. To minimize your risk, it’s important to download all critical updates and software patches on a regular basis.
- Use Peer-to-Peer file sharing software with caution - An improperly configured file sharing program could potentially share all the contents of your hard drive – including sensitive documents such as tax returns - with millions of other users. Because of this risk, it is recommended that you do not store sensitive documents on the same computer with a file sharing program.
- Obtain necessary tax documents through the Internal Revenue Service - The IRS provides all necessary tax documents through its website, irs.gov. Downloading forms from a file sharing program or an unauthorized third party site may have a malicious program embedded within it.
- Use reputable tax preparation sites - Before providing your sensitive information to a website, ensure it is a reputable tax preparer. The IRS provides a list of approved E-file and Free File tax preparers on its website, irs.gov. Also, review the reliability of a company by searching the Better Business Bureau’s website, bbb.org.
- Ensure the website protects your information with encryption - Just because the website says the page is secured, doesn't necessarily mean that it is. So, before entering your sensitive information, ensure the site is encrypted. Look for the "https" in the address bar and a "lock" next to the address or at the bottom of your web browser. Most modern web browsers will even change the color of the address bar to green when you are on a secured page. This will help prevent your information from being read during transmission.
- Use a strong username and password - Be sure to create a username and password for the tax preparation website that is not only strong but unique. Your username and passwords should be at least 8 characters in length and include both upper and lower case letters. In addition, your password should also include at least 1 number and at least 1 special character. Using unique usernames and passwords will help keep your other logins safe in the event this login is compromised.
- Be aware of Phishing scams - Tax related phishing scams increase during this time of the year. Hackers send emails pretending to be from the IRS or a tax preparation company in an effort to obtain your sensitive information. The email usually asks you to respond to the email or click on a link that takes you to a fake website to provide your information. The emails also generally create a sense of urgency and say something bad will happen if you fail to respond. It’s important to remember that most businesses and the government will never ask for sensitive information via an unsecure method such as email. If you receive an unsolicited email that claims to be from the IRS, you can forward the message to email@example.com.
For additional information on how to protect yourself and your computer while online, visit charter.com/security.
†Charter Security Suite is available at no additional cost for Charter Internet Plus and Ultra customers. Charter does not guarantee data will be secure.
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