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March 13, 2012, Volume 58, No. 25

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Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Tax Season Tip: Be careful where—and how—you buy tax software

No matter what kind of software you’re shopping for online, it’s always a good idea to buy from reputable, well-known vendors and avoid “bargain basement” sites. This is particularly important as April 15 approaches and you begin the process of filing your taxes. Nationally renowned security expert Brian Krebs recently posted an item on his blog: http://krebsonsecurity.com/2012/02/how-not-to-buy-tax-software/ recounting the story of a man who bypassed Amazon.com in favor of tax software at a much lower price on Blvdsoftware.com, only to discover that the site had disappeared from the Internet a few days later, and that his software download did not include the usual license key.

In addition to the well-known dangers of purchasing unlicensed software that has potentially been “doctored” with malware, the fact that tax software is specifically used to enter and track confidential financial and personal information makes it even more important for consumers to ensure that they are acquiring and using approved, reputable methods of filing their taxes electronically.

If you plan to purchase tax software and/or file online this year, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Purchase your software from reliable sites such as Amazon.com, or directly from companies that specialize in taxes, such as TurboTax and H&R Block.

• If your income is $57,000 per year or less, you can probably file your taxes online with the IRS at no charge using software available at www.irs.gov/efile/

• The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers via email. “Phishing” attacks in recent years have included messages that include actual IRS forms as attachments, and which ask for sensitive, personal information.

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For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/

Almanac - March 13, 2012, Volume 58, No. 25