January 23, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE CONSIDERATION
Contact: Linda Foley
858-693-7935, ext 104
Identity Theft and Tax Time Tips
We are approaching “Tax Season” once again. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, this means added opportunities for identity thieves to steal your identity.
The documents taxpayers send and receive this time of year contain all the information identity thieves look for: your name, address, bank and financial account information, and most importantly, your Social Security Number. For the identity thief, tax time provides a wealth of opportunity.
The Identity Theft Resource Center wants to remind businesses and consumers to be careful when handling tax-related documents and information.
Here are some examples on how to minimize the risk of identity theft:
Keep tax paperwork in a safe, locked location. Financial documents don’t belong in a briefcase. They can be lost or stolen if left unguarded in your car for even a few minutes.
Put papers you no longer need through a cross-cut shredder. These include receipts, papers with credit card account and Social Security Numbers (such as health benefit payment and income reporting forms), and loan documents. These all contain information a thief can convert into a new account in your name. Even a seven-year old receipt can be used by a thief.
If your computer is linked to the internet, make sure to have updated firewall, antivirus, and spyware software to protect you from invasion. Since many taxpayers now file online, or store financial information on their computers, it is vitally important to install and update these types of security programs.
Mail Theft Prevention
Be sure to retrieve your mail every day. Uncollected mail is an invitation for an identity thief. When mailing your tax documents, always take them directly to the Post Office. Drop them in a box inside the Post Office. If you use an outside Post Office pickup box, it’s best to drop your mail before the last pick-up of the day. Leaving mail overnight gives a thief a better opportunity to steal mail. Don’t leave tax documents in an outgoing mail box at work. Unguarded mail is a theft waiting to happen.
Tax Preparers and Personal Privacy
Be selective about who works on your taxes. Investigate tax preparation companies with the Better Business Bureau, especially new or seasonal offices. Ask how your information will be stored, what computer security software is used, and if the person working on your taxes has undergone a thorough background screening. Trust your impressions. Do you see personal papers displayed on desks? If you feel uncomfortable or doubt the firm’s commitment to protecting your privacy, take your business elsewhere. Avoid doing financial business in supermarket concession booths, where others may hear or see your transaction. Those mini offices are not soundproof and criminals have been observed watching transactions with telescopic lenses. Go elsewhere.
Tax Time Scams
If you receive an email asking for your Social Security Number or financial information, delete it or send it to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org for investigation. The IRS does not send emails stating you are being electronically audited. They also don’t contact you by email about refunds which require you to provide bank information. If you have any questions about an email you received from the IRS, or a letter that sounds suspicious, immediately call the IRS Taxpayers Advocates at 877-777-4778.
Employment Identity Theft
Identity theft goes beyond the well-known forms of financial identity theft. Sometimes identity thieves use your identity to get a job. They may be employed and using your Social Security Number – or even your child’s Social Security Number. In these situations, the IRS may send a notice indicating that more than one person is using a Social Security Number, or that you owe back taxes. If this happens, immediately contact the IRS Taxpayer Advocates or the Identity Theft Resource Center for assistance.
WHERE TO GO FOR MORE INFORMATION OR HELP:
IDENTITY THEFT RESOURCE CENTER
IRS Taxpayer Advocates
Federal Trade Commission
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