Taking ActionConsumer Reports


How to file your taxes online securely

Taxes On Calculator Shows Income Tax Return
Posted at 4:58 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 05:04:08-05

It’s that time of year yet again: tax time. The IRS is already accepting tax returns, so if you haven’t started yours, it might be a good time to think about it. And if you’re going to download financial documents and file electronically, Consumer Reports says it’s also a good time to make sure your technology is up to the task of keeping your personal information safe and secure.

90 percent of Americans will file their taxes online, either using a professional tax preparer or tax software. And, paired with direct deposit, electronic filing is the fastest way to get a refund. But is it safe?

The IRS says all tax prep software will now have multifactor authentication, which asks users for an extra bit of info to log in, like a code sent to their email address. Because even if someone steals your password, multifactor authentication, also called two-factor authentication, could still stop them from getting into your account.

But before you file, CR says take a few minutes to make sure your sensitive online accounts and your router are secured using strong passwords.

Use a string of random words, numbers and special characters, something no one could guess. Or, better yet, consider using a password manager so you don’t have to remember all of them.

CR’s top-rated password manager is 1Password. It’s the only one tested to earn top marks for data privacy, data security, and usability.

You can also protect your personal tax information by simply looking for the HTTPS or a little lock at the beginning of a web address. Otherwise, it could be a fraudulent site.

Sites with HTTPS use encryption to prevent any information you exchange from being spied on or changed while it’s traveling across the internet.

Newer iPhones and Android phones come with encryption already enabled. It’s also available for Mac and Windows computers; you may just need to enable it in the security settings. So if either is lost or stolen, your personal data can’t be accessed.

Consumer Reports has created a free online security planner to help you secure your devices and accounts. We’ve provided a link to it with this story on our website.