Tax season prime time for hackers

A new PCMag survey found taxpayers in Texas are worried their personal data could be breached when filing taxes online.

Tax filing trends & concerns:

• 30 percent of Texans are worried their personal data could be breached when filing taxes online.

• 42 percent of Texans use an online tax software—a place where cybersecurity scammers often capitalize during tax season.

• 35 percent of Texans said they’re worried about the government shutdown impacting their tax filing and returns.

PCMag's software analyst and cybersecurity expert Max Eddy said this creates extra anxiety during tax season about hackers stealing private information.

“Tax season in 2019 could be a real perfect storm for scammers, and filers will have to pay particular attention this year. First off, filing your taxes is about money, which is a prime motivator that can be exploited by scammers. It also involves a government agency—one of the few organizations that legitimately need to ask for private information, such as your social security number. These two factors make tax season an excellent opportunity for scammers every year," said Eddy.

He said the government shutdown and the new the tax overhaul has created a lot of uncertainty for tax filers this year, making it a particularly prevalent time for cyber scammers to take advantage.

"Tax season is very stressful time because it combines two things: money and fear, and, both of these usually lead people to making not great decisions, and that's exploited by scammers and attackers in order to get personal information or to try to swindle you out of your money," said Eddy.

He said when filing your taxes online check with the IRS for free tax services they have vetted that are good to use.

Otherwise, it's important to choose a reputable service.

Or, if you send files electronically to your CPA, find out what kind of encrypted software they use, and suggest.

You should take some basic security precautions:

• run a good antivirus program to ensure your PC is free of malware, and update your operating system to the latest version.

• use a strong password that includes a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and other characters when e-filing.

• use a VPN when working on your tax return, to ensure privacy.

• use a two factor authentication

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