Like most US expats, you’re probably looking forward to receiving your stimulus check abroad. Many of you probably already started googling how to do all the necessary paperwork.
That’s good – very proactive of you! But did you stop to ask yourself – is it actually safe to do your stimulus check paperwork over the web? Are there any risks?
Unfortunately, there are – and if you ignore them, you’ll put your personal data in danger. We’ll tell you what we mean more in-depth in this article. Also, we’ll show you how to keep your data safe while doing online paperwork to get your stimulus check.
What’s So Dangerous about Doing Stimulus Check Paperwork Online?
The problem isn’t with the process itself or the online platforms you use, but with the security of the network you use to do your paperwork.
Many of you probably want to use public WiFi – it’s cheap, it’s available everywhere, and it’s extremely convenient.
Sounds good, but here’s the problem – public WiFi just isn’t safe to use! Most public networks don’t require a password to use them – that’s what makes them so appealing in the first place. But that means the network doesn’t use any encryption. So a skilled hacker with a packet sniffer (like Wireshark) will have no problem eavesdropping on your traffic to steal sensitive personal and payment data from you. Next thing you know, your bank accounts will be empty and you’ll be the victim of identity theft!
What If I Use Secured Networks Instead?
They’re better than free public WiFi, but not by much. While a secured network encrypts your traffic, that doesn’t mean your data is 100% safe.
Because secured networks have their own vulnerabilities. Most of them use the WPA2 encryption standard, which is actually vulnerable to a serious cyber attack.
Well I don’t need to worry about that – my network uses the upgraded WPA3 security standard!
We thought you’d say that, and while WPA3 is safer than WPA2, it’s not fool-proof. WPA3 also has some serious vulnerabilities that can leave your data exposed if you’re faced with skilled hackers.
So bottom line – it’s not safe to do your stimulus check paperwork online even if you use a secured network.
Here’s Another Threat – Fake WiFi Networks!
Yep, there is such a thing as a fake WiFi network. And no, it’s not called that because it tricks you into connecting to it and doesn’t provide you with online access.
On the contrary, it’s a free network that lets you freely browse the web. The only difference is that it’s run by a hacker who monitors all your traffic, meaning they can steal your data. Even worse, it’s not difficult for a skilled cybercriminal to set up a fake WiFi – they can actually do it in just two minutes!
And it’s very easy to fall for a fake WiFi network. They’re named after legitimate networks, so you won’t even think twice about connecting to them. Plus, if a fake network imitates the SSID (network name) of a network your device previously connected to, your device will automatically connect to it when it detects its signal.
How to Secure Your Traffic When You Do Your Stimulus Check Paperwork Online
If you’re an expat, a VPN can help you cash your stimulus check securely outside the US. Don’t know what that is? It’s an online app that’s programmed to secure your traffic by encrypting it.
Encryption is just a fancy term for turning data from a readable format into an unreadable format. If your Internet traffic is encrypted, that means hackers can’t spy on it anymore. If they do, they’ll just see gibberish. For example, instead of seeing the exact website URLs you access, they’ll only see random strings of text like HgaHRerw542UFGund.
That way, hackers won’t be able to use MITM attacks to redirect your connections to fake sites. Similarly, they won’t be able to use packet sniffers to steal sensitive data like payment details, login credentials, and social security numbers.
But Wait, There’s More!
Besides encrypting your traffic, VPNs also hide your IP address. Websites can’t see it anymore, and neither can hackers. So cybercriminals can’t use your IP to track your online movements. Also, they won’t know what country and city you’re from, or who your ISP is (so they won’t be able to target it with phishing attacks to steal your personal data).
Besides that, some VPNs also have ad blockers. That security features block connections to malicious sites (on top of ads, of course). So even if a hacker somehow manages to redirect your connection to a phishing site, it won’t succeed – the VPN will just block it.
How to Use a VPN to Do Stimulus Check Paperwork Online
It’s very simple to do this – just follow these steps:
- Subscribe to a secure VPN (like ExpressVPN or NordVPN).
- Download and install the VPN app on your device.
- Use the app to connect to a VPN server.
- Do your paperwork securely! All your traffic will be encrypted.
Should You Use a No-Logs VPN?
Yes, it’s best to do your paperwork using a VPN that doesn’t keep logs. That means it doesn’t monitor your online traffic (the sites you access and the files you download).
Not that a VPN would have anything to do with your paperwork-related data. But if it were to suffer a data breach, your data wouldn’t be leaked if it’s not logged.
What Security Measures Do You Take When Doing Stimulus Check Paperwork Online?
Do you also use a VPN? If yes, which one? And why do you prefer it over other VPN services?
Also, if you use other security services to protect your data, please tell us about them.