Tax filing safety for e-filers as scammers try to steal your identity and refund

Scammers are looking for people who file tax returns without taking precautions.
Posted at 3:55 PM, Mar 12, 2019

AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — It is tax time and scammers are working overtime to steal your personal information and get your tax refund.

Besides fake calls claiming to be the IRS, scammers/hackers are also targeting people who e-file using their home computers.

A recent poll by PC Magazine found that 47% of online tax software users were concerned that sensitive files and personal data can be compromised when filing taxes online.

So how can you protect yourself?

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly talked with software analyst Max Eddy, from PC Magazine, and Joel Colombo, president of 360 PSG in Amherst, to get some tips when e-filing from your home computer:

-Make sure you are using an updated anti-virus program.

-Do not e-file taxes on a computer using an outdated operating system like Windows XP or Vista.

-Search the IRS website for a list of verified e-filers. (IRS link)

-Never click on ads or emails that offer to install tax preparation software. Instead go directly to the site yourself. You can easily be redirected to a malicious site because of a 'phishing' effort by an advertisement or email.

-Make sure you have a secure connection to an e-filing web site by checking to make sure it says "HTTPS" before the site's web address. Computer browsers will also show a lock or green color.

-Purchase name brand software to e-file your returns. PC Magazine found H&R Block Deluxe 2019 and Intuit TurboTax Deluxe 2019 performed the best. (PC MAGAZINE link to tax software reviews)

-Never leave your tax information stored on a computer in case it gets compromised. Put your tax files on a flash drive or CD and erase information from your computer's hard drive.

-Turn off your browser's plugins and block ads. Often these programs monitor your online work and can be a source of malicious software. For Google Chrome users that means turning on 'incognito' mode.

-E-file your return early to make sure you get your refund. If personal information has been stolen and a scammer files a fake tax return in your name, they will get your refund. It could take years to get it sorted out. Filing first makes sure you get the refund while the false return will trigger a red flag.