E-filing Risks

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If you’re of a certain age, you probably recall when a well-known hamburger chain reached the milestone mark of ONE BILLION CUSTOMERS SERVED.

This year, the US Internal Revenue Service also reached the one billion mark. Since the inception of the e-filing program in 1986, one billion individual tax returns have been e-filed. That translates into handling less paper, which results in a cut in government costs and the saving of millions of taxpayer dollars.

But rewards come with risks. Listed below are three be-a-wares.

Computer Snags. The ease of e-filing may be just a click away, but suppose a computer virus interferes, or your tax software preparation program malfunctions? You might think your tax return is filed when it really hasn’t left the station, so to speak. Be sure to check for your acknowledgement from the IRS stating that your return has been accepted.

Wifi Concerns. Avoid sending tax information from at-home or public computers that are connected to the Internet via an unsecured network. Cyber-crooks have been known to intercept data transmitted wirelessly. Better idea: Use a hard-line connection.

Fraud. Clever scammers use a variety of phishing tricks to gain access to your Social Security number—which they then use to file a return in your name and claim your refund. E-filing itself may not put your data at more risk for this technique, in which scammers steal your data via false e-mail. The risk is that after you’ve filed your return electronically, you may assume the e-mail in your computer inbox actually does come from the IRS. Remember, the IRS does not initiate tax correspondence via e-mail. Never respond to an e-mail purporting to come from the Internal Revenue Service. If you think there may be a problem with your tax return, call the IRS (1-800-829-1040).

While it’s not always possible to protect yourself from new-fangled risks, old-school methods can help safeguard personal data. So, back up financial files to a secure location, keep a paper copy of your tax return in a locked cabinet, and create hard-to-crack passwords. As always, remain vigilant.

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