For the past few weeks,Â I’veÂ spent every free minute and quite a few not-so-free minutes â€“ time that I I will never get back! — doing taxes. I have complicated taxes, But after trying everything else to get out of it, I have found they only get done correctly and on time if I do them myself.
I lean heavily on online tools to accomplish this dangerously boring and horrific feat. Iâ€™d be lost without Mint.com, which keeps track of my tax deductible expenses and TurboTax.com, which asks me one dreary (but simple enough) question after another until I get to the end. And then it does all the math and sends in all the forms for me.
According to McAfee, Iâ€™m not the only one using online tools to get this hateful task done. Every year, more consumers file taxes online (81% did in 2012).
I think this â€“ the great online tools; not the taxes â€“ is great. Itâ€™s easier, faster, and saves trees. But — ever the killjoy when it comes to the ease of Internet use — McAfee points out that there are risks. â€œDuring 2012, the IRS discovered $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft, compared with $14 billion in 2011,â€ the company told me in an email.
As with anything, knowing what these risks are is the best way of avoiding them. And since Iâ€™m super busy trying to make this looming April 15 tax deadline, I am grateful to Michelle Dennedy, McAfeeâ€™s VP and chief privacy officer for sharing some tips on staying safe in tax season.
Here they are:
- Protect your data.Â This means that all sensitive documents, including anything that includes tax or investment records, credit, debit or bank account numbers, or a Social Security number, must be secured from the moment they arrive in your mailbox.
- Shred non-essential paperwork.Â Check with your accountant to determine what you need and what you donâ€™t. Use a cross-cut shredder to destroy unneeded documents.
- Go paperless.Â Whenever possible, opt to receive electronic statements in your inbox. The less paper in your life, the better.
- File early.Â The earlier you file, the more quickly you will thwart any criminalâ€™s attempt to file on your behalf and collect your refund.
- Use a clean PC.Â Make sure you are not using a computer that is infected or does not have any security software. You should also make sure that the computerâ€™s operating system and browser are updated and that you use up-to-date, comprehensive security software like McAfee All Access that protects all your devices.