Identity theft Is on the rise! Here’s how to protect yourself…

Everyone knows identity theft happens, but most people assume it will never happen to them.   When people think about identity theft, they think about things like fraudulent credit card accounts being opened or debit and credit card numbers being stolen.

But lately, there has been an increase in identity theft related to false tax return filings.  Returns are being filed by someone else who obtained a taxpayers name and social security information, but may not have other correct information about the taxpayer. 

If you determine that a false return has been filed, the IRS requests that Form 14039 – Identity Theft Affidavit be filed with a paper copy of your tax return.  This form is filed along with copies of your driver’s license, social security card or passport.

If you are a victim of any type of identity theft, you should review all personal records to determine the extent of the theft.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has put together a free comprehensive guide on how to handle the theft.  The guide contains information on the next steps you should take, such as preparing an identity theft report, filing police reports, contacting banks and credit reporting agencies and alerting the Social Security Administration.

The FTC guide, “Taking Charge: What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen,” can be found at the following link:

The best weapon you have against identity theft is prevention.  Below are a few tips for protecting your personal information:

  • Never leave your purse/wallet unattended in public places (restaurants, church, shopping centers, parties, etc.) and limit what you carry in your purse/wallet to the essentials.  Leave your social security card and birth certificate at home unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use credit and debit cards wisely.  Credit and debit cards offer different levels of protection against fraudulent charges.  Avoid using your debit card in situations where it must be taken out of your sight to be scanned, like at a restaurant.
  • Review monthly bank and credit card statements for any unusual charges and report any suspicious items as soon as possible.
  • If ordering new checks, do not have them sent to your home address.  Inquire if you could pick them up from the bank instead.
  • Buy a shredder!  Shred any pre-approved credit card applications, other junk type mail, statements, receipts or anything else that has personal information before throwing away.
  • Memorize your passwords and PIN numbers so that you don’t have them written down.
  • Be on the lookout for missing statements.  If you don’t receive a monthly billing statement, contact the company immediately.
  • Don’t pay your bills while at your local coffee shop.  Wireless hotspots are popping up everywhere from coffee shops to airports.  While they may be convenient they are generally unsecure which means any information you send or receive could be easily intercepted by hackers.

Please contact us if you have any additional questions regarding securing your records, or have questions on what to do if you have been a victim of identity theft.