While you can breathe a sigh of relief that tax season is finally over with, don’t wipe taxes from your mind just yet. In addition to utilizing precaution when it comes to your personal information, you should also be aware of the warning signs of tax-related identity theft.
According to USA.gov, you should be wary of any Internal Revenue Service (IRS) letter or notice that states:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN
- You owe additional tax, you have had a tax refund offset, or you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
If you encounter one of these cases, it is likely that your identity is already stolen. The next steps you should take are: file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), contact Experian to place a fraud alert on your credit records, respond to IRS notices and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and then contact any financial institutions to close accounts that were opened or tampered with. If you get an email, text, or phone call claiming they’re from the IRS, do not respond with your personal or financial information. The IRS urges that you report any of these incidents with them, here.
In addition to staying aware of the status of your tax returns and avoiding phishing attempts, there are tons of precautionary measures you can take to protect your identity.
- Credit Monitoring
By utilizing credit monitoring services like Identity Guard, you insure that you stay up-to-date on your personal information and receive notifications if something appears wrong. From ongoing credit applications scanning to credit score updates, this tool can not only help protect your identity, but help you figure out how to increase your credit score.
- Social Security Numbers and Medical Records
Believe it or not, medical records are one of the most common ways to get your identity stolen. Aside from government-run health insurance programs (like Medicaid, TRICARE, and Children’s Health Insurance Program), most health insurance providers do not use Social Security numbers to identity you. While doctors, hospitals, and other health providers may want your Social Security number on record to help with debt collection, you are not required to provide that information. If a doctor’s form asks for your SSN, leave it blank or provide only the last few digits.
- Secure Sites and Shredding Sensitive Mail
When online shopping, be conscious of shady, unsecured websites. Avoid accessing sensitive information in public or on public Wi-Fi sources. According to CNBC, online credit card fraud increased last year by 40%, with identity theft via stolen password information rising by 31%. Additionally, use a cross-cut shredder to destroy sensitive information before throwing it away.
While you might want to push taxes far from your mind, be aware that identity theft can happen. In addition to reporting any phishing scams and taking precautionary measures through credit monitoring, be aware of your surroundings. Although cyber crime is on the rise, losing your credit card, passport, or social security card can be just as detrimental.
Have you or someone you know ever had their identity stolen? Let us know how in the comment section and be sure to subscribe!