News From Our Blog

Keep Your Tax Returns Safe from Identity Thieves

Scammers can use the sensitive personal information in your tax return to steal your identity and even take your tax refund. Here are some tips to minimize your risk:

  • Make sure that anyone helping to prepare your taxes is trustworthy.
  • File taxes early in the tax season to reduce the window of time in which a thief could fraudulently file under your Social Security number.
  • If filing electronically, only submit forms through a secure Internet connection.
  • If filing by mail, go to the post office directly to mail the envelope.
  • Do not respond to email messages asking for your personal information that claim to be from the IRS. If the IRS needs to contact you, it will do so by mail.

An unexpected message from the IRS could be a tip off that an identity thief is misusing your Social Security number. Contact the IRS if you receive a notice that:

  • More than one tax return was filed in your name
  • IRS records show you were paid by an employer you don’t know

If you get such a message from the IRS or suspect that someone has stolen your Social Security number, call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Learn more about protecting yourself from tax-related identity theft.

Protect Your Identity When Using Mobile Devices

Being in first place usually brings with it bragging rights, but not if it’s the top spot in the Federal Trade Commission’s annual complaint report. For the 12th year in a row, identity theft has held that dubious distinction, as ID theft complaints once again topped the 2011 list. Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.

Although smartphones brought great convenience into people’s lives, they also brought with them another opportunity for thieves to access personal data and use it to their advantage. As a matter of fact, a recent study by Javelin Research found that smartphone users are approximately 33% more likely to become a victim of identity theft than non-users. Further, the Javelin study also revealed that 62% of smartphone users do not use password protection, allowing anyone who finds or steals their phone to have access to the contents which typically includes a vast amount of personal information.

To increase awareness and provide identity theft protection resources, the fifth annual Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) , held October 20-27, will offer broad-based ID theft protection education in addition to focusing on the threats related to smartphones with the 2012 theme of “ID Theft Protection on the Go.”

During the week, events will be held nationwide in communities across the country, providing consumers with the opportunity to shred sensitive documents free of charge, obtain ID theft protection information, and responsibly recycle unused mobile devices.

It is anticipated that more than 100 events will be held from coast-to-coast. All events are free of charge and open to the public. To locate the PYIW event closest to you, go to www.ProtectYourIDNow.org. Clicking on the website map will provide details of events in your area.

What To Do If You’re A Victim of Identity Theft

Video description

The immediate steps a victim should take to limit the damage caused by an identity thief.

Video transcript

NARRATOR: What to do if you are a victim of identity theft?

If your identity’s been stolen, the FTC is the right place to learn how to set things straight. Here are 3 steps to take.

First, call one of the nationwide credit reporting companies. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit report. This means businesses must confirm that you are you before they extend credit in your name.

The alert is a roadblock in the path of an identity thief—and it’s just one phone call away.

Second, order free copies of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies.

Third, complete the complaint form at ftc.gov/complaint.This creates an identity theft affidavit, which helps you file a police report.

Keep records of your calls and copies of your documents. You’ll use them later on.

For more tips and tools on dealing with identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft. That’s ftc.gov slash ID Theft.

What Is Identity Theft?

Video description

Routine steps we can all take to protect our personal information and reduce our risk of identity theft.

Video transcript

NARRATOR: Identity theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life.

But there are certain steps you can take to help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Everyday you do things to protect what’s most important to you. And you know what? You do them almost automatically.

Routine things like looking both ways before you cross… brushing your teeth… and buckling your seatbelt.

Another routine to get into is keeping tabs on your identity and personal information. Here are five easy ways you can do it:

Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often every month. Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn’t show up when you expect it, look into it.

Read the statements from your health insurance plan. Make sure the claims paid match the care you got.

Shred any documents with personal and financial information.

Review your three credit reports at least once a year. It’s easy and free.

And before you know it, protecting your personal information can be as routine as locking your doors at night.

Visit ftc.gov/idtheft for more information.

Prevent Child Identity Theft

Identity theft is a commonly discussed topic for adults, and most know they can monitor their credit reports and receive fraud warnings when someone is attempting to use one of their accounts.

However, child identity theft is something most people don’t think about, but it can happen to anyone just as easily. Because parents and guardians don’t have open credit reports for their children, they don’t expect to need to check on any possible fraud.

Identity thieves can use a child’s identity to get a job, obtain government benefits, medical care and other financial loans.

How to Prevent It

You can help prevent child identity theft by safely storing all documents with your child’s personal information. This includes their date of birth, Social Security number and birth certificate.

Only share their personal information with people you trust, and when entering it online, make sure you are using a secure internet connection. Also check with your child’s school to see who has access to their personal information. Openly discuss with your child the importance of keeping personal information safe.

Properly dispose of all materials that contain your child’s personal information. Shred letters, forms and other papers that include this information. You should also permanently delete this information off any electronic devices before getting rid of them. Treat the safety of their personal information just as you would your own.

Learn more about child identity theft and how to spot it. (PDF)