The threat of identity theft this tax season leaves consumers with more to worry about than whether a tax return is in the mail. Experian’s ProtectMyID®, a multilayered identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution product, advises consumers to protect personal financial information found in tax returns. A thief may use sensitive information, such as a Social Security number, to claim a fraudulent tax refund, open fraudulent credit cards and commit other criminal acts that may take months, if not years, to correct. The state of South Carolina has partnered with Experian to provide ProtectMyID free for one year. To sign up visit protectmyid.com/scdor and use the activation code SCDOR123 or call 1-866-578-5422 for customer service.
Tax-related identity theft is a continuing problem. In fact, the National Tax Advocate reports that the use of stolen Social Security numbers to collect fraudulent tax refunds increased more than 78 percent from 2011 to 2012, affecting nearly 450,000 individuals
The IRS advises victims of tax-related identity theft to visit the IRS website and complete Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit. According to the IRS, it continues to expand the number of Identity Protection Personal Identification Numbers (IP PINs) being issued to victims. The IP PIN is a unique identifier that shows that a particular taxpayer is the rightful filer of the return. In 2013, the IRS has issued IP PINs to more than 600,000 taxpayers who have been victimized by identity theft.
Experian offers the following tips to safeguard your identity during tax time:
• Place tax documents in a secure location.
• Some tax apps require users to take photos of W2 forms. Be sure to delete images after use.
• Password-protect your smartphone.
• Always type “irs.gov” directly into a browser to avoid vicious links. Report fraudulent IRS emails, texts or phone calls to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Keep operating systems and all computer protection software up to date.
• Do not use public computers to e-file taxes.
• Ask tax preparers about computer security measures employed by their offices.
• Wipe the hard drive before disposing of or donating an old computer that contains personal or financial information.
• Monitor credit reports regularly.
Founders Insurance Services is now offering an identity theft protection program called IdentitySecure®. Contact any of the Founders Insurance Agents at 1-800-845-1614 for more information.
This article was published in Founders FCU Transaction Newsletter (April 2013).