Tax season is upon us. As consumers wait for tax-related documents to be delivered to their mailboxes, thieves are lying in wait, ready to intercept. According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax identity theft is one of the top types of ID theft reported. Using stolen personal information, which can be found on tax-related forms, identity thieves can file phony tax returns and collect the refund.
Identity theft can have lasting, damaging effects. Here are some ways that identity theft can cause harm:
Insurance information may be stolen and used for medical services, leading to the policy reaching the maximum payout.
A social security number can be used to open new credit accounts or apply for a loan, tanking the victim’s credit score.
Worse yet, crimes may be committed using a stolen identity, leaving the victim with a criminal record.
TIPS TO PREVENT BECOMING A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT:
- Shred or tear up personal financial documents before discarding them.
- Do not print personal identifiers such as your social security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number on your checks.
- Use your social security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Only reveal information online when the website is securely protected (look for a yellow padlock symbol in the corner of your computer screen).
- Do not provide personal, financial or any other identifying information to a telephone caller. Ask for the caller’s name and telephone number, and then check to see that the caller is legitimate.
- Pay attention to your credit card billing cycles, as identity thieves may reroute bills to another address to hide criminal activities involving your accounts.
- Carefully review all monthly credit card statements and check for unauthorized use.
- Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year to check for possible errors.
- Minimize the number of cards and identifying information you carry, especially your social security card and passport.
- Before revealing any information – online, over the phone, or in-person – ask how it will be used.
If you find out you have been the victim of identity theft, promptly notify local law enforcement.