How to stay cyber safe during tax season

Like it or not, it's that time of year again: tax season, also known as a cyber criminal's holy grail. There's a reason why tax season is one of the busiest periods for cyber crime - it's an opportunity for cirminals to steal tonnes of personal information and critical data.

If you're filing your taxes online this year, here are some things you can do to protect yourself from identity and financial theft.

76 % of Canadians are concerned about identity theft.Note i

Protect your identity

Your tax data is a gold mine for cyber criminals. Your taxes contain all of the information they need to steal your identity - like your social insurance number (SIN), your record of employment, your family status and even your bank account information.

You can protect yourself by:

  • Icon of a file folder. There is a password field is comprised of asterisks over it and an arrow pointing to a field below it that reads: CatJacketChargerShelf1!
    creating a strong, unique passphrase or password for each of your tax accounts
  • Icon of a file folder displaying one long password field that branches off into two shorter password fields. The fields are filled with asterisks.
    enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) whenever it's available

29% of Canadians still use the default password on their home Wi-Fi networks. Note i

File your taxes on a secure network

Public Wi-Fi connections that don't require passwords, like your local library or coffee shop, are risky. You should never access personal accounts or send sensitive information, like your taxes, while using unsecured networks. Save these tasks for when you have a secure connection. If you need to use a public Wi-Fi network, make sure you're using a VPN so that you can protect your private information.

Prohibited sign covering a free Wi-Fi logo

You can file your taxes safely by:

  • A laptop surrounded by sheets of paper, displaying a Wi-Fi network icon on the screen only filing on a secure network, like your home Wi-Fi
  • A laptop surrounded by sheets of paper displaying a VPN shield using a VPN to protect sensitive information
  • A laptop surrounded by sheets of paper displaying a VPN shield
    enabling your firewall
  • A laptop with hand holding document with password field, lock, and VPN shield on screen
    not accessing sensitive info on public Wi-Fi unless using a VPN
  • A laptop with, on screen, window named Your home network with old password and new password fields
    updating your home network's username and passwords from the default settings

3 in 10 Canadians are concerned about phishing scams.Note i

Be on the lookout for phishing attacks

Cyber criminals will often impersonate legitimate organizations or individuals to steal your information. These phishing attempts are harder to spot during tax season when you might think that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is contacting you.

You can identify phishing scams by looking out for some common red flags:

  • an email with body text Hello USER, Sumthing is rong! Click here 2 fix ur computeR smiley face
    email or texts that have spelling or grammar mistakes
  • blurry logo, with crossed out circle next to it, and below, clear logo, with checkmark next to it
    poor formatting, or blurry logos and images
  • window with document icon named not_malware.docxsuspicious links or attachments
  • email to you from, with body text Hello USER, We are now taking rent payments here. Click button below. smiley face and button labelled Pay Here
    email addresses that are suspicious or don't match the organization they claim to be from

Not sure if it's really the CRA ? Learn what to expect if the CRA contacts you by visiting their official website.

45% of Canadians set their devices to update automatically.Note i

Update your devices as a defence

Software updates aren't just for new features. They also come with critical patches, bug fixes and security updates. Ensuring your devices are up to date could help you fight off a cyber attack.

You can secure your software by:

  • update loading window
    setting your devices to run updates automatically
  • antivirus shield-with-lock icon
    regularly updating your anti-virus software
  • query field saying Updates Ready to Install, with buttons Install and Later, with cursor hovering over Install
    updating your software as soon as the update is available

Get more tips to protect yourself and your devices at

  1. i

    Get Cyber Safe Awareness Tracking Survey, EKOS, 2020


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