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updated 4/4/2011 10:48:05 AM ET 2011-04-04T14:48:05

Nearly 99 million people filed taxes online in 2010, and the IRS says that number will increase in 2011.

But there are risks any time you share personal information online. Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to grab that data and use it for scams.

“Taxpayers in general are a favorite of cybercriminals,” said Fred Touchette, senior security analyst with Gulf Breeze, Fla., security firm AppRiver. “We see many malicious campaigns that target taxpayers throughout the year by impersonating the IRS claiming that the taxpayers owe money, or are due a refund that they were unaware of.

“This sudden offer of free money is a social engineering tactic that will often get the target to stop thinking logically, which in turn, makes them an easier mark,” Touchette added. “Remember, the IRS will never ask you to relay sensitive information through email, and if there is a question about something you’ve received, always contact them directly. Do not respond to an unsolicited email you’ve received.”

Touchette provided 10 ways taxpayers can stay safe and secure when filing their taxes online.

1. Online fraudsters (a.k.a. “phishers”) will attempt to contact taxpayers via email. As stated above, the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer through email.

2. The IRS will never ask you for PINs or credit card information in an email.

3. Never click on a link, or open an attachment, in an unsolicited email.

4. Don’t ever access a website you have to log into while using public hotspots. This includes airports, hotels, libraries, restaurants, cafes or any location that offers free Wi-Fi.

5. Always and completely log out of sensitive sites. It is possible for an attacker to hijack a session that has been left open.

6. Do not file taxes online using the same computer that your kids do. A good portion of online scams target today's younger generation.

7. Remain vigilant and try to use simple logic. If it seems too good to be true, and it’s sitting in your inbox, delete it — especially if it’s from someone you didn’t initiate contact with.

8. Before entering sensitive information into a website, look for the security padlock symbol and the “https” prefix in the browser’s address bar.

9. Create strong passwords. Choose passwords that are complex and use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.

10. Limit your exposure on email and the Web. Online behavior bears perhaps the most scrutiny by outsiders. It’s essential to reduce the risks by using reliable e-mail and Web filtering solutions.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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