The federal income tax filing deadline for the 2020 tax year was extended to Monday, May 17. Online filing offers a quick and convenient method to meet this approaching deadline. The simple and common sense tips below can help you stay safe not only while filing your taxes but also with other online accounts.

  • Ensure your device’s software is up-to-date. This means checking for updates and patches that apply to your operating system (OS), applications (apps), software and browsers on laptops, desktops and tablets.
  • Do not file by using public Wi-Fi. Public wireless networks are not secure. Instead file using a secure personal network.
  • Establish strong account security. Create passwords that are not easy to guess.
    • A strong password should be at least 12-15 characters long, include one lowercase letter, one uppercase letter, a special character and a number.
    • Setup multi-factor authentication which provides another layer of security.
  • Do not open a text or email if you are not familiar with the sender.
    • If you open a suspicious email, do not click any links or open any attachments.
  • Never respond to the sender of a suspicious or unsolicited message.
    • According to the IRS web site, if contact is needed with a taxpayer, the first point of contact is initiated through a letter by way of the United States Postal Service. The IRS website also states, they do not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media.
    • When in doubt, reach out to the sender or caller through a trusted method such as their website or phone number on record.
  • Move the phishing email to your email’s ‘spam’ or ‘junk’ folder. Steps to do this will vary depending on your email provider.
    • Customers using the email platform provided by GRM Networks receive “Daily Digest” emails as part of our email spam solution. The “Daily Digest” contains any messages the spam filter has quarantined. Learn more about this feature here.
  • Keep your data secure.
    • Logout of the computer when you are finished or are leaving your workspace.
  • Research your tax preparer.
    • Ask what steps they are taking to protect your information and identity.
    • Know who has access to your personal information.
    • Ask how they store and back up client data.
    • Do they encrypt communications with their clients?
    • What does their network security entail?
  • Be diligent. Hackers know no boundaries and are constantly looking for their next target!

If you suspect that you are a victim of tax identity theft, go to https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-central and begin the process to reclaim your data and identity.