Mar 27

Protect Your Online Tax Filing

When you file your tax return online, you enter a lot of sensitive personal data through your keyboard. Is it safe?

Webroot Software says it found a 265 percent increase in the instances of system monitors from February to March, when the majority of users use the Internet to prepare and file their taxes. According to the Internet security firm, system monitors and keyloggers can track and record a user’s individual keystrokes, making it easy for spyware criminals to steal personal information entered into an online tax program or form.

Webroot is offering users a free (PC-only) computer scan to check for spyware, viruses and other dangerous forms of malware. Look carefully for it on the company's homepage: it says free scan, but does not mention the tax season angle.

Other tips from Webroot:

  • For Federal electronic filings, make sure to use services directly linked to, and do not respond to email inquiries regarding your taxes.
  • If you plan to file your state taxes online be sure to only use links directly from your official state homepage. Links to the official websites for all 50 states are available here.
  • Make sure you are running updated versions of best-of-breed anti-spyware and anti-virus software and scan your entire system at least once a week.
  • Final note: To clean your computer after the free scan you'll have to pay for the Webroot software. I found it relatively easy to locate and delete the offending elements on my computer after Webroot had identified them.