Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and can take time, money, and patience to resolve.

One of the fastest growing types is tax identity theft and federal tax refund fraud.  The IRS investigations of tax-related identity theft are up 66 percent since 2012.  Since 2011 through 2013 the agency has stopped 14.6 million in suspicious returns and protected over $50 billion in fraudulent refunds.   We have had two clients within the past two weeks fall victim to attempted tax refund fraud.  This is real and can happen to you!

There are five main ways to reduce your risk of identity theft:  know who you are sharing information with, store and dispose of your personal information securely (especially your Social Security Number), ask questions before deciding to share your personal information, and maintain appropriate security on your computers and electronic devices – DO NOT, under any circumstances email sensitive information (especially your Social Security Number)!

Identity Protection Tips

Keep your personal information secure offline and online.

Before you share information at your workplace, a business, child’s school or doctor’s office, ask why it is needed and how it will be safeguarded.

Shred all sensitive documents before tossing in trash.  This can include credit card receipts, credit offers, insurance forms, medical records, school records, anything that contains your social security number or account numbers.   If in doubt, shred it.

Be alert to impersonators.  Do not give out personal information on the phone, mail or internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with.

Before disposing of a computer or mobile device be sure to delete all personal information.

Use security software and keep it updated – anti-virus software, anti-spyware software and a firewall.

Avoid phishing emails.  Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.

Encrypt online data when emailing sensitive information and documents.

Do not use public WiFi when sending sensitive information online.   This includes hotels, coffee shops and airports.

Always use strong passwords and change regularly – don’t use the same password for multiple accounts

Monitor your credit report.

Keep a close watch on your bank account and credit card activity.

Additional information:  FTC Identity Theft Info