HELP FILE

The Washington Post Sunday - - TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION -

Q: I’d like to use a tax-prep ap­pli­ca­tion this year, but I don’t want to en­termy So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber on­line. Should I be concerned about that?

A: First, you can al­ways run the disk-based, off-line ver­sions of tax-prep pro­grams, such as In­tuit’s Tax­Cut and H&R Block’s Block At Home, and file through the mail.

Or you can use an on­line ap­pli­ca­tion (my pref­er­ence), store a fake SSN, print your re­turns and then use Wite-Out to mask the in­cor­rect dig­its be­fore writ­ing in the cor­rect ones.

But in the larger sense, you shouldn’t worry about pro­vid­ing your So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber in the se­cured, en­crypted con­fines of a tax-prep sys­tem. In­stead, you should worry about all the more­ob­scure cor­po­rate and govern­ment data­bases that store that in­for­ma­tion, some of which have much looser se­cu­rity and have been im­pli­cated in past

data breaches. Un­for­tu­nately, there’s lit­tle you can do about that risk.

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