Weekly business rail, with e-filing tips, a look at the most valuable college basketball teams and more.

Tip of the Week

Cybercriminals love tax season. Whether pushing out scam e-mails purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service with attachments containing malicious software, or using key loggers or other techniques to capture your personal and financial information while on the Internet, online criminals know how to make the most of this opportunity. You can e-file with confidence, however, when you follow some important security steps:

- Use tax services only from trusted companies. At IRS.gov, you can search by ZIP code for tax preparers in your area who are certified to e-file your return on your behalf. You can also find a list of free online software companies that can help you e-file on your own.

- When e-filing or preparing your taxes online, use strong passwords to protect your privacy. Avoid obvious passwords like your child's name and birth date. Strong passwords should be more than eight digits in length and include a combination of letters, numbers and, if possible, special characters.

- Never provide identifying information or account numbers to unknown sources. For example, never respond to an unsolicited e-mail or online advertisement that offers to prepare your taxes and asks for your Social Security number or bank account number.

- Use an up-do-date Web browser that provides important security tools.

- Think before you click. Even if you know the sender, pause before you open attachments or click on links in e-mail. Confirm with the sender that the message is real or visit the official Web site by typing the address yourself. And always be wary of clicking links or buttons in pop-up windows.


BBB Watch

The Better Business Bureau is warning cash-strapped families to beware of some online payday lenders that claim they are not beholden to state or federal laws regarding licensing requirements, debt collection practices or caps on interest rates.

“Desperate times are leading people to the Internet to apply for payday loans, and many are falling deeper into debt after getting tangled up with a lender who has zero regard for the law,” said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Unlike a payday loan that you might get from a local business, online payday loans require your bank account number and, as a result, the borrower is at the mercy of the lender as more money than they counted on is withdrawn from his or her account.”

Hundreds of people have complained to BBB after signing up for a payday loan on sites like OnceClickCash.com, 500Fastcash.com, rbtloans.com and Ameriloan.com. Complainants state that they agreed to what they believed was a one-time payday loan — typically a few hundred dollars to be paid off in two weeks. The arrangement quickly turns into a debt spiral. Complainants state all of their subsequent payments went toward paying off recurring finance charges and never toward the principal. One Massachusetts woman who received a loan from Ace Cash Services stated she made more than $1,700 in payments to pay off a $225 loan.

For more information, go to www.bbb.org.

The List

Here are college basketball’s most valuable teams, according to www.forbes.com:

1. North Carolina

2. Kentucky

3. Louisville

4. Kansas

5. Illinois

6. Indiana

7. Ohio State

8. Syracuse


10. Arizona

Number to Know

408,000: Number of smart phones Palm sold in the quarter that ended Feb. 26, a disappointment for the company that’s trying to compete with the iPhone and BlackBerry.

Tech Talk

Beware of e-mails that ask you to reset your Facebook password, because hackers recently have sent out messages that, when clicked, will infect your computer and steal passwords.

GateHouse News Service