Tax season is right around the corner, which means it is time to start getting your financials in order. Tax Identity Theft Awareness week provides a great opportunity to learn how to protect yourself and your finances while navigating through the task of tax filing. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal or financial information, such as a Social Security Number (SSN), to commit fraud. Basically, if you have a SSN, you are at risk for identity theft.
There is no doubt that cybercrime is rapidly on the rise; Identity theft cases have tripled each year in the last three years, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). How do we protect our important information and ensure it is handled safely and securely?
Consider the below points for ways to better protect yourself:
- Do NOT supply your SSN to anyone unless absolutely necessary.
- Shred any documents containing sensitive information before you throw them away.
- Remember the IRS will NEVER contact you via email, text, call, or social media.
- They will only contact you by United States mail.
- Try to check your credit report at least once a year, to check for unusual changes and account activity.
- If you suspect your SSN may have been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection unit.
- They can be reached at 800-908-4490 or at identitytheft.gov
- Keep your computer up to date by running frequent updates and virus checks.
- Change your passwords periodically throughout the year.
- Research your tax professional thoroughly before handing over any sensitive personal information.
- Get referrals from people you trust or visit the Better Business Bureau’s Business profiles at bbb.org.
- Ask them for their PITN (Preparer Tax Identification Number), a number given to each tax professional by the IRS, in order to verify their qualifications.
Victims of identity theft have a greater risk of being targeted again in the future. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), almost one-third of those who reported identity theft ended up becoming a repeat victim.
Certain demographics are bigger targets than others for scammers. Thieves will target those who do not periodically check for warning signs, and those who are less likely to report any irregular activity, such as children and younger adults. The FTC recommends checking your children’s credit reports just as often as you check your own. Seniors are most frequently targeted over the phone and through phishing scams.
Check out our Fraud Blogs section for more information on how to keep your identity safe.