Are You Taking The Right Precautions To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

Are You Taking The Right Precautions To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

Identity Theft was the #1 consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission in 2011.  The most common forms included government documents and the use of social security numbers to steal refunds processed during tax season.

The Treasury Inspection for Tax Administration says that the number of victims of identity theft has doubled – with 270,500 affected in 2010 and 640,000 affected in 2011.  This is a significant trend and one worth paying close attention to (especially if you only find out about your taxes when it is time to file!)

Currently, the IRS has 800,000 cases, but millions are affected every year.  Unfortunately, a portion of this is due to information readily accessible online. For instance, children filing taxes for deceased parents can obtain social security numbers on a government website, also making them accessible to predators and thieves.

Given the trend, it is very possible that you or someone you know will be affected.  Although the IRS is currently working on new processes and procedures, we should take some preventative steps to help protect ourselves.  Among many, the following are five good steps to follow.

  1. Shred mail before trashing it
  2. Consider signing up for identity theft protection services – many are offered.  You should also check with you financial institution to see what they can do for you.
  3. Change passwords/access codes frequently
  4. Do not access financial accounts on unsecured Wi-fi servers
  5. If you have a client or customer who has had their identity stolen, report it to the authorities (filing a police report) and report to all credit agencies immediately.

These actions can make it a little more difficult for thieves, extend more protection to clients, and possibly help the IRS in resolving its overwhelming caseloads.  Currently, it is taking them over a year to resolve one case.