Did you know that approximately one person becomes a victim of identity theft every three seconds in the United States? In 2012, identity fraud incidents increased by more than one million victims and fraudsters stole over $21 billion.
Unfortunately, tax season is a peak time for identity theft and scammers are out in full force. As you prepare your tax return for the April 15th deadline, follow these tips to help protect yourself against identity thieves:
- Store tax documents, records, statements and receipts in a secure location until you need them to prepare your taxes. Consider utilizing a safe, locked drawer or filing cabinet for this purpose.
- Do not click on any links in emails or text messages claiming to be from the IRS. Fraudulent phishing and smishing scams can be reported to email@example.com.
- Maintain updated anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computer and password protect your smart phone. Do not store passwords, PIN numbers and account information in your phone.
- Monitor your credit reports on a consistent basis. You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com. Consider staggering your reports, so that you receive one every four months.
- When getting rid of an old computer, phone or tablet, remember to wipe the hard drive to dispose of any personal or financial information that may be stored.
For more helpful information at tax time, visit www.bbb.org.