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Serious Advice Error in Article "Prepare to File Secure Tax Returns" in March 2012 issue of AARP Bulletin
posted at March 17, 2012 7:46 PM EDT
First: March 17, 2012
Last: March 17, 2012
The article "Prepare to file Secure Tax Returns" by Sid Kirchheimer on page four of the March 2012 issue of AARP Bulletin was mostly spot on but with one major error.
First, to quote a passage from the article. "Don't fax financial information to your tax preparer. Instead, mail sensitive documents or scan and email them."
One must take issue with the last four words quoted (and underlined) above. Unless the sender is using some form of encrypted email and a electronic method of certifying that only the intended recipient is receiving the document, scanning and emailing documents is probably the least secure method for delivering documents to a tax preparer.
There are no guarantees of security for Internet traffic. Once the message leaves the sender's computer it routes through the Internet Service Provider's routers and ultimately lands on the recipient's email server. When the sender clicks the "send" button, the sender has lost control of the data and anyone who has access to the routing resources and email servers that handle the transmission could potentially intercept the document.
Another problem is that the Internet is not forgiving of mistakes. If a sender mistakenly delivers, for example, a copy of last years tax returns to the wrong email address, it is not possible to retrieve the message. The unintended recipient could, in turn, forward the tax returns to anyone and there is nothing to stop it.
So, the correct advice should be to never scan and email sensitive documents unless the sender and recipient can coordinate the tranmission through a secure email transmisson.