Your Cybersecurity Checklist For Tax Season

It’s tax time and the deadlines are fast approaching. If you’re in Canada, the due date for your taxes this year is April 30th, while in the US, May 17th is the date to keep in mind.

Tax season used to mean mountains of paperwork, but recently more and more people have been taking advantage of online software to file their taxes. While filing your taxes online can definitely save you a lot of time, it also opens the door to digital threats that you may have not even been aware of!

With your safety in mind, we’ve put together a cybersecurity checklist to help keep you and your information secure this tax season!

Need some cybersecurity tips when filing your taxes? We've put together a cybersecurity checklist to help keep you and your information secure this tax season!

First, What To Look Out For

With all the W2s and T4s flying around, there’s a trove of personal data that cyber criminals can use to steal your identity and financial information.

1. Tax Fraud

Did you know, according to the Federal Trade Commission, one of the most common types of identity theft is tax-related fraud? This is when someone uses your social security number (or SIN) and other personal information to file an income tax return. You might not know it happened until:

  • You get a letter informing you of a suspicious tax return with your SSN or SIN
  • You try to file your return online but get a notice saying a return has already being filed with your SSN or SIN

FixMeTip: Has a tax revenue agency been trying to contact you? Click here to learn about what to expect when the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you (or here if you’re you need the US version!)

2. Phishing Scams

If someone contacts you out of the blue claiming to be the IRS or CRA – be sure to stop and think before you give any personal information. Fraudsters will demand immediate payment to create a sense of urgency – they know people are more likely to make irrational choices under pressure. These types of scams typically use the same tricks:

  • Impersonation: They will often pose as members of the IRS, CRA or other tax agencies, and inform you that there’s some sort of error with your tax return.
  • Robot Scam Calls: These calls tend to ramp up noticeably during tax season – a robotic voice informing you that your social security card has been compromised and the police are involved. These calls will urge you to contact a number, where a scammer will then persuade you to transfer funds into their accounts.
  • Fraudulent Letters: Recently, scammers have upped their game and started sending official-looking mail to potential victims. Many of these letters claim to be from the Bureau of Tax Enforcement (which doesn’t even exist), and while they may look legitimate, they are often missing a lot of key details that are found on the real deal.

While some of these scams are easy to spot, sometimes they manage to slip by. Here are some tips to keep in mind if you’re trying to figure out whether something is legitimate or a scam.

  • If these agencies want to reach you, they would do so through mail, or through your verified tax account – they won’t contact you through phone or email (however it’s best to exercise caution with snail-mail too).
  • Official letters will always have a seal and a letter or notice number – plus you can always call the tax agency in question to verify (just make sure you’re calling a valid number).
  • They will never call to set up a meeting with you in public to take payment or demand immediate payment by e-transfer, bitcoin, prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
  • If they use aggressive language or threaten you with arrest it is definitely a scam.
  • One reader also mentioned to watch if they use your name. If they don’t ever address you by your name, you can assume it’s a scam.

Even if you get an email that has the correct logo and name make sure the email address looks correct and watch for spelling and grammar errors! You can always call the correct agency to verify any communication you receive.

3. Fake Software

Not only are scammers impersonating federal agencies they also pretend to be tax software, like TurboTax or UFile. You might receive an email from this software informing you that you need to reset your password due to suspicious activity on your account. You’re taken to a fake website where you update your information and unknowingly give cyber criminals access to all your personal data.

Fake Software - Not only are scammers impersonating federal agencies they also pretend to be tax software, like TurboTax or UFile.

Next steps to take before you file your taxes

Check out what tips our in-house tax experts shared with us for how to stay safe and secure this tax season!

Make sure the computer you’re using is clean

If your computer is infected your information is compromised before you even submit it. Use a trusted antivirus to protect what matters most and run FixMeStick for an added layer of security and peace-of-mind.

Our accounting team uses McAfee antivirus because they want a name they can trust to get the identity and privacy protection they need. Although free software may seem good enough, it doesn’t provide nearly the same level of protection and customer support as paid antiviruses.

Need extra protection for your computer? Get more than 60% off your McAfee purchase here!

You want your computer to be up-to-date too

We know updating your operating system can be a pain but this is the only way to ensure it’s optimized against vulnerabilities. Your OS needs to be running its best to detect and avoid malware.

Tax tips for when you file

The device you’re going to be using is secure, now it’s time to actually file your return safely, securely, and efficiently.

Use a secure connection

If you can avoid it, try not to file your taxes on a public Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi typically doesn’t provide you with a secure connection, and allows others to see your online activity.

Also double check that any sites you’re using have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Check to make sure the URLs have https:// (not just http), and a lock icon at the front of the URL address.

FixMeTip: use a VPN to create a hack-proof, encrypted tunnel for your online traffic. Try NordVPN with an exclusive discount today!

Use a strong, unique password

Whether you’re creating a new account this year or using an account from previous years, it’s best to choose a password that prioritizes your security.

While it may be tempting to use easy, memorable passwords like your dog’s name or your SIN, it only makes it easier for cyber criminals to gain access. With online breaches increasing year after year, it’s crucial that you use unique, complex passwords for every account.

Better yet, use 2 Factor Authentication (2FA) to ensure only you have access to your accounts.

You login with your password like regular. Then you’re also sent a code to your phone and have to input that to verify it’s really you trying to login. 

Not sure if your computer is secure? Use the StartMeStick!

When filing taxes it is important to be confident your computer is clean. If you want an added layer of security and privacy, then you can use the StartMeStick (as long as your tax software can be accessed via an online browser). The StartMeStick is a secure and private computer on a stick that doesn’t save anything. That way you can be confident that your taxes are safe and secure, with no extra personal information for someone else to get their hands on.

Try the StartMeStick today – with a money-back guarantee!


Have any questions or extra tips about how to safely file your taxes? Let us know in the comments below!

22 comments

  1. Joan Smith - Reply

    NOBODY, the BBB, police or you, seem to suggest the obvious “check” on whether it’s a scam. They DON”T address you by your name!!! I had numerous phone calls left on my phone, and finally was home and answered one. I knew it was a scam, but purposely asked “is it my taxes or my husband’s you’re talking about?” and the phone message went on and on and was obviously a scam! If you were visiting me and I asked you to answer the phone, they’d accuse YOU of owing!! Emails come to my email address “name” which is NOT my name. So PLEASE include a statement “We will always address you by name and confirm with some unique detail that CRA knows who it is talking to/emailing, etc.”

  2. Les Blenkhorn - Reply

    Good advice, but if you owe Revenue Canada for back taxes, they will try to contact you by snail mail first, email if you have set up an account with Service Canada, or by phone as a last resort. That will be Collections Canada and they will tell you to contact the CRA at their 800 number to set up a payment plan.

  3. Jose Rivera - Reply

    My fix me stick does not work. canI get help? My computer says theres malwear . I need to know what to do. Is mt fix me stick up to date? Joe

  4. Vivian - Reply

    I have had FixMeStick for several years now. I don’t know what I’d do without it. It has been such a blessing. Thank you FixMeStick.

  5. Anonymous - Reply

    I used your fixmestick How do I know it worked? What should I expect?

    • Keegan Anfield - Reply

      Hey there, the scan will take a few hours. At the end of the scan, you’ll see Step 6 which will tell you if your computer is clean or not, then you’ll click “Exit FixMeStick”.Feel free to send us an email to support@fixmestick.com if you have any additional questions.

  6. Christine - Reply

    I enjoy my fixmestick, but it won’t work on my new computer. Keep up the good works.

  7. Anonymous - Reply

    I scan my computer every month with the FixMeStick and love it. I make my husband scan his laptop also, so we are both virus free. We had bought a two year subscription to a malware-free program, different than MacAfee, just before I discovered FixMeStick. Does the FixMeStick work just as well with a different malware-free program, than the one you suggest?

    • Linda - Reply

      Hi there, thanks for reading our blog. We recommend using the FixMeStick in partnership with an antivirus program and it does not matter if it’s McAfee or another brand. The FixMeStick does not provide ongoing protection; it is a tool that can be used to remove viruses that have already attacked the computer. Antivirus software such as McAfee can prevent viruses from getting on your computer, while the FixMeStick can scan and clear viruses that antivirus software can’t reach.

  8. Tina - Reply

    I tried to use my start-me-stick on my new computer. A file was created and the logo appeared on the black screen but then there was nothing. Is there a possible reason for this that I can deal with?

    • Jonathan - Reply

      Hi Tina,

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      Sometimes, depending on the model of computer you’re using, the StartMeStick may require a bit of troubleshooting in order to get it to properly launch.

      If you’re running into difficulty, I’d recommend contacting us at support@fixmestick.com where we can help troubleshoot the issue!

    • Jonathan - Reply

      Hi Maurice,

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      Helping with taxes might be a little bit out of our realm of expertise, unfortunately. However, if you do have any questions with any of our products, we’d be more than happy to help!

    • Jonathan - Reply

      Hi David,

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      Currently our products (both the FixMeStick and the StartMeStick) are compatible with Windows® XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 (systems dating from 2001) – unfortunately the FixMeStick is not yet compatible with computers using Optane. However, because the StartMeStick doesn’t require access to the hard drive in the same the FixMeStick does, it means it can be used on Optane computers.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to reach us at support@fixmestick.com!

    • Jonathan - Reply

      Hi Bjarne,

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t received your FixMeStick as of yet. I’ve gone ahead and sent a follow up email, where can look into sending a replacement.

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