So many jobs have gone the way of the dinosaur since the advent of the internet, at least as we once knew them – but one position that remains in high demand is the accountant. Every tax season, people across the country turn to their friendly number cruncher and ask them to unravel the codes that make up our taxes.
We could ask the internet, but for many of us, that’s just asking for trouble. We don’t know enough to do our own taxes and we don’t quite trust a slick computer program – except those of us who do. But if we’re going to turn to online tax programs, maybe we should know a little more about them.
Start With Caution
According to experts, most Americans are too relaxed about the likelihood of identity theft, especially during tax season; it’s time we approach the process with more caution. If you’re going to do your taxes online, be sure to choose a program with two-factor authentication and always do your work on a secure internet connection. Choose long, complex passwords and don’t replicate passwords from other sites. If you don’t follow thisadvice for any other purpose, do it on your tax site of choice.
Consider The Cloud
In general, you have two choices when it comes to tax preparation software: you can choose a PC-based program or a cloud-based one. Many people automatically assume a PC-based program is safer because it’s more rooted – can’t anyone hack into the cloud? However, this isn’t necessarily true. Cloud programs are not actually more vulnerable and, in fact, may be better protected and more thoroughly backed up than your home computer.
Cloud-based software is also likely to be more accurate than PC-based tax software because you are responsible for updating PC programs, while cloud-based software updates automatically. That means your cloud-based tax program will automatically update to fix glitches, update tax rules, and ensure everything is as it should be – your PC software won’t do that.
The fact of the matter is that tax documents, like all financial documents and programs, are vulnerable to hackers and you need to be alert for unusual activity and scams. In an era where most of us use digital financial tools, we should all be used to this vigilance, but because taxes are a break in the routine, many of us get flustered when dealing with them.
During the course of tax season, be aware of any news regarding system breaches – there are sometimes backend problems with software that can affect accountants. If you’re concerned about an email you receive from your tax website, don’t click on any links or download file attachments, as they may carry a virus or take you to a scam site. Go to a bookmarked page for the website or contact the company directly about any questions you may have.
Another key thing to remember is that cloud-based programs don’t require software downloads. If a site you’ve otherwise used without software suddenly requests you download something, close the site immediately. There are forms of malware that record your passwords; this is one way you can fall victim to such scams.
Online financial security is an important topic and something few of us take seriously. It’s important that we approach tax season with renewed vigilance as consumers, placing an extra emphasis on our privacy. Do your due diligence on any tax program and don’t be afraid to contact the company or a CFPB.
Breaches and security issues often become public in the days and weeks following April 15, so stay on alert.