This tax season, did you file your taxes online? If you were like one of nearly 100 million of resourceful Americans you did. With tax returns being filed electronically now more than ever, it is important to understand what is involved with handling your sensitive information online.
Step One Know exactly who you are dealing with and what they are all about.
Are you paying a bill online? Make sure you know the name of the biller, relevant account information (i.e. account number, amount owed, etc.), and everything involved in paying that particular company online. Not every company has the same way of handling online payments. For instance, paying my phone bill online is greatly different than paying my utility bill electronically. NOTE: Also make sure that you are aware of any extra fees involved with certain types of payment. My phone bill can be paid with any method I choose, but I am charged extra if I pay my utility bill with a credit card.
Are you filing your taxes online? Make sure you know the name of the company you use to file. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the reputation and reliability of the company. Be sure to print our relevant documents to keep careful records. It would be wise to read through the information provided by the IRS regarding filing your taxes electronically, available on their website.
Step Two Be extra cautious regarding all correspondence you receive concerning your financial transactions.
Would you recognize a legitimate email from your financial institution? Often with regular online bill paying, phishing begins immediately. Some attempts are obvious, while others can fool even the most cautious computer user. When you do receive email correspondence of a financial nature, rather than reply to the email, go directly to the website itself. To be even safer, you can also the company if you suspect any fraudulent contact.
Would you recognize a legitimate email from the IRS? Take a close look at these two emails from an email address that seemed to come from the IRS, both with the IRS letterhead at the top of the email:
EMAIL 1: After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $93.60. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.
To access your tax refund online, please click here.
EMAIL 2: Please review your tax statement on Internal Revenus Service (IRS) website (click on the link below). This is in regards to your income being underreported.
Can you spot the phony email? Well consider this statement directly from the Internal Revenue Service: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information. Both emails were fakes! So keep that in mind when dealing with the IRS electronically.
No matter what sort of business you conduct online, be cautious and make sure you are both well informed and sensible when handing out your personal information.