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The secure way to fill out paperwork online

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Luke Houghton

published

Jan 18, 2024

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4 mins

The secure way to fill out paperwork online

Filling out forms online is getting easier. But is it safe - or even legal - to sign and submit forms online? In short: yes. In long: read on.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Form filling requirements: Medicare and the IRS

  • 2. Legal criteria for eSignatures and forms

  • 3. Stay secure when filling forms online

  • 1. Form filling requirements: Medicare and the IRS
  • 2. Legal criteria for eSignatures and forms
  • 3. Stay secure when filling forms online

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You’ve just entered your name, your address and your phone number into a form and clicked the big blue submit button. 


A panicked thought crosses your mind. 


“Is this form really legit!?”


It is understandable to feel this way. 


More companies are shifting to online forms, raising questions on legitimacy and security of personal details. 


But rest assured, completing forms digitally as opposed to by hand is safe and legal – and accepted.


Form filling requirements: Medicare and the IRS


In the last decade, there has been a massive shift in companies accepting applications online over hardcopy forms. The benefits make sense: the application can be completed anywhere, the trees are spared and the process can be streamlined.


However, there is always the question of what is happening with your personal data and who can get their eyes on it. 


The good news is online forms are secure. We can thank a mind-boggling process called encryption for that.  


Just like your breakfast eggs, the data entered into an online form is ‘scrambled’ so only the authorized eyeballs are able to ‘unscramble’ it and view the data.


There are also other security layers such as password authentication and role authorization, which prevent your precious data getting into the wrong hands. 


The U.S. government is one of the best examples of secure online forms in action. Just a few of the forms you can submit online are:


  • W-4 forms
  • 1040 forms
  • I-765 forms
  • 8938 forms

Nearly 213.4 million tax return forms were processed electronically by the IRS in 2022. That’s a lot of data to protect! 


Want to hear even more good news? Online forms not only have to be secure, but they have strict legal criteria to meet, too. 


No matter where you are in the world, a company that wants to use an online form has to meet specific regulations set by regulatory bodies. These are the enforcers that aren’t afraid to dish out the big fines (the average fine for a HIPAA violation is $1.5 million!)


Of all the data out there, arguably the most sensitive would be healthcare and medical. Think patient records, health insurance and prescription requests. It is reassuring to see that even within the healthcare industry, online forms are employed as a means of transferring personal information. 


Can we take a moment to appreciate government agencies and technology working side-by-side to keep our precious data safe?


Stay secure when filling forms online


Hackers and cybercriminals of all sorts are out there collecting and selling the data of those not careful enough to notice. Next time you are completing a form, look out the for the following warning signs:


  • Check the URL. https:// indicates a secure, encrypted connection whereas http:// does not.
  • Check for the padlock symbol in the address bar; if it’s closed, it’s safe. If it’s open, it’s not.
  • Watch out for dodgy eSignatures. Legitimate eSignatures are encrypted (remember the scrambled data), where you use sets of personal digital keys to verify that it’s you. If a signature is added to the form that isn’t verified by you, the form may not be secure.

You put a lot of trust in the security of these forms. So does your employer, or your government, or Menards.


So go ahead, submit that form online.

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