security-onlineCon artists are at work again, and this time they are phishing for your personal information by hacking into wireless WiFi systems or leading you to fraudulent tax sites. But beware – knowing how these hackers work and how handle them could prevent you from being swindled out of your personal and financial information, including your refund. Once hackers obtain your personal and financial information, such as Social Security numbers, bank accounts, or credit cards, they will be used to commit identity theft. These crooks are out to empty bank accounts, run up credit card charges, or use your identity for personal benefits. Furthermore, your identity can be re-sold to other crooks on the black market. The following are rules you should follow when filing your tax return online: 1. Avoid filing using Wi-Fi systems in public areas. Many hackers can easily see and collect information that is coming through these systems without you every knowing it. Avoid doing taxes, and any other financial transaction for that matter, on these public WiFi systems at all costs. 2. Use only secured WiFi home systems if going wireless. If you use Wi-Fi at home, make sure you are using an encrypted network. N-network routers are the best to use as they come equipped with the strongest encryption. G-network routers are a good second choice as they have encryption too, but usually not as strong as N-network routers. Stay away from some older networks that may not have any security/encryption features. Also, make sure your home network is password protected. 3. Going “hard-wired” is the best. The safest way to prepare and file your return is with a hard-wired system at home. Although encryption and password features make it much harder for hacker to break into home WiFi networks, a WiFi system could still be compromised by a skillful hacker. Filing using cable is virtually a bullet-proof way of preventing those unwanted hackers from stealing your personal information and money. 4. When filing taxes online, use a reputable and trustworthy company, such as Taxbrain.com. There are many reputable online tax softwares out there, but there are also some lurking tax sites just waiting for you to take the bait. Some websites look like the real-deal, but are designed to scam users. When dealing with any tax or financial institution, make sure you know the correct spelling of the site. A bad misspell could lead entangle you in a web of deceitful websites that work to swindle the personal and financial information you put into them. You can verify that a site is trustworthy, here are some tips to look for:

a. Can you contact someone by phone or mail? A reputable site should have a people you can talk to.

b. Is the website certified by an Internet trust organization? An Internet trust organization is a company that verifies that a website has a privacy statement and that the website gives you a choice of how they use your information. Websites approved, such as Taxbrain, are able to display the privacy certification seals, usually somewhere on their home page. If you are not sure whether a trust logo is legitimate, contact the trust organization to see if the website is registered with them. To learn more about trust organizations, you can go to the TRUSTe website, the BBB Online website, or the WebTrust website.

c. If your browser has a phishing filter, make sure it is turned on.

The Right Way to Get Your Refund – Choose Direct Deposit Over a Mailed Check

Getting your refund by direct deposit is not only the fastest way to receive your tax refund, but it is also the safest. Direct deposit eliminates the possibility of your refund check being lost, stolen, or returned to the IRS as undeliverable. Other benefits include the convenience and ease of direct deposit. Since money goes directly into your bank account, you won’t have to make a special trip to the bank to deposit the money yourself. When you’re preparing your return, simply follow the instructions on Taxbrain and enter the correct bank account and routing numbers. Vincent Mangiapane, EA Federal Analyst, Taxbrain Not using Taxbrain yet? Create a free account today and rest assured your personal information is safe.