As we enter the annual tax season, please keep in mind the need to protect your personal identity records. According to the U.S. Government’s Accountabilities Office (GAO), between January and September 2012 the Internal Revenue Service reported 642,000 cases of identity theft involving fraud schemes which equated to the loss of $754 million dollars. This accounts for a 62% increase in cases reported since 2011 and the GAO estimates another $21 billion in losses via identity theft tax fraud over the next five years.
So, how can you protect yourself? First, do not carry your social security number with you. Quite often, businesses and companies will request your social security number. Ask them questions such: Why would you need my social security number? How will it be used? How will you protect my information? If they cannot tell you, then maybe you should reconsider conducting business with them.
Assume your receipts, hospital statements, credit card applications, old checks, and expired credit cards will be sifted through so ensure that you always shred these items prior to disposal. To opt-out of prescreening offers of credit through the mail, call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). Also, never leave outgoing mail containing personal information in your mailbox and instead drop it at the local post office’s collection boxes.
If you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft or wish to see more tips on how to better protect yourself, please visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at FTC.gov.