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How to securely file your taxes online

Consumer Reports and Anders CPAs and Advisers said it's a good time to make sure your technology is up to the task

ST. LOUIS — Refund checks. It's the pressing question every time you file your taxes, when will it come?

If you file online, the IRS says it could come in as little as eight days.

"We've been doing our taxes online for about the last seven years. It's easy, it's convenient," said Matthew Starzyk

Starzyk is like 90% of Americans who now file online using either a professional tax preparer or tax software. But is it safe?

"Watch for trusted sites and trusted providers," said Dave Finklang of Anders CPAs and Advisers. "So at a bare minimum, the provider needs to be approved by the IRS."

Also look for the letters "HTTPS" at the beginning of the web address. That means they use encryption to prevent people from stealing personal information.

"It's just an extra level of security that a site has to go through," Finklang said.

And before you even file, Consumer Reports advises you to take a few minutes to make sure your sensitive online accounts and your router are secured using strong passwords.

Use a string of numbers, words and special characters, something no one could guess.  Or consider using a password manager, so you don't have to remember all of them. They say One Password earned top marks for data privacy, data security and usability.

The IRS says all tax prep software will now have multi-factor authentication which asks users for an extra bit of info to log in, like a code sent to their email.

"For a lot of folks, that's that annoying kind of pop-up that when you log on to a website and it says we're going to email you a password or text you a passcode," Finklang said.

But it's a nuisance for a good purpose. So, even if someone steals your password, multi-factor authentication can still stop them from getting into your account.

Consumer Reports offers an online security planner here.

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