Internal Revenue Service officials aren't the only ones excited about taxpayer season — ID-theft criminals are, too, because it's one of their most lucrative windows of opportunity each year.

Tax filing season begins soon, and to help you protect yourself and your family, this week's column is focused on guidance and caution in filing taxes, selecting a preparation service and increasing your awareness of IRS-related scams to guard against identity theft.

The Identity Theft Resource Center operates a 24/7 call center to help consumers who’ve been impacted by data breaches, identity theft, or other related issues. Throughout the year, we track the specific scenarios that led to consumer calls in order to develop a clearer picture of the public’s needs.

Identity theft is a scary idea. It’s frightening to know that someone is “out there,” pretending to be you, racking up bills in your name, committing crimes and telling the authorities they’re you, or worse. It’s enough to make you lose sleep at night before it even happens, and the reality after the fact can be equally frightening.

Fortunately, we are here to help—twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to donations from our wonderful supporters—with free resources and information to get you started clearing up the problem.

ID-theft criminals are ramping up for 2015. Make sure you know what you need to know to reduce your risk of ID theft.

Whether you are a consumer or a small-business owner planning for a great 2015, help yourself by taking charge of your cybersecurity and personal privacy to reduce your risk of becoming an ID-theft victim.

Thanks to the support of donations to our non-profit organization, the Identity Theft Resource Center is able to offer 24-hour-a-day assistance to individuals who may be impacted by identity theft. This seven-day-a-week help is crucial to getting consumers the information they need to recover from this increasingly common crime.

While there are a lot of different types of identity theft—medical, tax, employment, social media, and many more—the overwhelming majority of calls to the ITRC help center were for financial identity theft, with 68.1% of all calls in 2014 having to do with someone’s financial identity being compromised.

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