As millions and millions of America’s prepare their income tax returns, tons of identity theft criminals are also getting busy looking for loopholes and carelessness so that they can gain information that helps them steal an unsuspecting victims identity. It’s important to protect yourself, especially at this time of year.
Check out the below tips to keep your important information safe. These tips (see below) are from Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, Inc. and former U.S. Senate Legislative expert on identity fraud, offering the following precautions to safeguard their identity and assets this tax season.
1. Monitor your mailbox. Keep a lookout for official tax forms, like 1099’s and W-2’s. Missing or lost documents could be a sign of identity theft and should be investigated immediately.
2. Protect your sensitive tax documents. During tax time, many of the forms consumers handle have sensitive information of immense value to identity thieves. Keep your tax documents in a safe, secure place that is out of public view.
3. Beware of scams. Tax time is a prime time for fraudsters to target consumers with phony emails asking for their personal information. Remember that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate communication with taxpayers through email.
4. Track IRS communications carefully. If you receive an unusual notification from the IRS, such as a report of wages from an employer you do not know, be alert to possible identity theft.
5. Review your personal information for misuse. For the 97.5 million Americans expected to file electronically this year, take a few minutes to visit www.MyIDScore.com while online to check your risk of identity theft. MyIDScore.com is a free online service that gives consumers immediate insight into whether their personal identifiable information is being used fraudulently to obtain assets, goods or services.
6. Examine your credit report. Tax season is also a good time to get your free annual credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. The report is provided by the three national credit bureaus and you can request your report from each bureau once a year.
7. Check your annual income statement from the Social Security Administration. A fraudster can steal your SSN and use it to get a job. The fraudster’s employer would then report the fraudster’s wages under your SSN to the IRS. Check for any discrepancies between the income reported and the wages you received. In addition, be aware that the IRS may then think you have not reported all of your income on your tax return.
8. Pay attention to duplicate returns. If someone steals your identity, they could file a tax return first using your SSN. Then when you file your return, the IRS will think you have already received a refund or that or you have filed a second copy or duplicate return. This confusion will cause delays in receiving your refund.
9. Contact the IRS if you are victim. The IRS now has a toll-free number to assist identity theft victims. They will mark affected accounts to resolve identity theft issues more quickly. The phone number for the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is 1(800) 908-4490.
10. Prepare for next year. Begin planning ahead for 2011 by creating a file to organize receipts, official forms and documents on an ongoing basis for peace-of-mind and easy access to reference your important information in the future.