Consumer Reports experts suggest tips to securely file taxes online

Posted at 10:37 AM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 11:37:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — It's tax season. That's right, April 15 is just around the corner and the IRS is already accepting tax returns.

If you haven't started working on your taxes yet, you probably will be soon.

When doing taxes, many people download financial documents and file them electronically. But before you do, you'll want to make sure your technology is up to date and up to the task of keeping your personal information safe and secure.

Matthew Starzec is like 90% of Americans who file their taxes online, either using a professional tax preparer or tax software.

"We’ve been doing our taxes online for the last seven years. It’s easy. It’s convenient," Starzec said.

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 multi-factor authentication, which asks users for an extra bit of info to log in, like a code sent to their email,” said Yael Grauer, Consumer Reports security editor.

Because even if someone steals your password, multi-factor authentication, often called two-factor, could still stop them from getting into your account.

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

Consumer Reports suggests using 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.

“Our top-rated password manager is 1Password. It’s the only one we tested to earn top marks for data privacy, data security, and usability,” Grauer said.

You can also protect your personal tax information by simply looking for the "HTTPS" or a little lock at the beginning of the 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," Grauer said.

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.