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3 On Your Side: Online Tax Prep Warning

jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The deadline for filing your federal tax return is less than a month away. Have you completed your tax return yet? If not, 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has some advice so that you can be sure your information stays secure.

Online tax prep and even mobile apps make it easier than ever to complete your tax return on the go. But that means wherever you go, your valuable personal information goes too and that can be a scammer’s dream. According to identity theft expert Steve Schwartz, “The main pieces of information that an identity thief would need, name, address, social security number, date of birth, telephone. They’ve got everything. That’s the keys to your kingdom.”

Schwartz says if you’re going to use your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone for filing taxes, make sure it’s secure. He recommends that you never use an open wireless network like at an airport or a coffee shop, no matter how much you think you can trust that connection. Also, take protections in case you leave that device behind. He says, “Make sure that you have a service that allows you to wipe that device if you lose it. If you lose it, you want to be able to remotely go online and say, wipe all the data out of my device. That way if somebody does get their hands on it, they can’t get into your information.”

Finally, be mindful of someone looking over your shoulder while you enter your information — and choose a password for the tax site or app, that’s tough for scammers to crack.

Speaking of taxes, tax experts at The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants have a great a web page where frequently asked questions are answered. To check it out visit: http://www.picpa.org/ask/public/search.aspx