Was it Oscar Wilde who said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation”? Poor Oscar lived during those simple times, when identities actually represented a person’s personality & all of it’s unique traits.
The world has come a long, long way since, your identity is now associated with everything you touch, from something as simple as your email account or other social media to your Social Security Number, bank accounts, credit cards etc. As we enter the maze of the digital world, we have to beware of the dragon that is the identity thief!
I had a close encounter with identity theft when a client’s e-file was rejected with a unique error code. On calling the Internal Revenue service (IRS) to investigate, we found that the reason for the reject was the return had already been filed under the same Social Security Number, we were told by the helpful agent that we now had an e-file reject with the “kiss of death” on our hands!!
How do we deal with this modern day problem that has far reaching consequences?:
Many innocent people are victimized and it may take years for matters to be resolved. Suffice it to say the age old idiom, “Better Safe Than Sorry” applies here.
Here are some Tips from the Internal Revenue Service to protect you from being a victim of Identity Theft:
• Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents with your SSN or Individual Taxpayer ID Number (ITIN) on it: First rule of thumb, you do not need to carry your SSN/ ITIN card on a regular basis. Please leave it in a safe place, preferably a safe deposit box.
• Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask: Do not give this information needlessly. Always pause to think if it is required for the business to have your SSN.
• Protect your Financial Information: Always shred your personal papers before you toss them out. Investing in a small shredder is a very good idea. Big box office supply stores have a service where they can shred your paper for a fee.
• Check your Credit Report every 12 months: Checking your credit report ensures you know of any unusual activity which has not been authorized by you. A good idea especially if you have a college student at home who has an authorized credit card, or if you are just back from a vacation out of the country.
• Secure personal information at home: Keep all your financial information, passports, social security cards, extra credit cards in a secure place at home. Investing in a safe deposit box that is also fire-safe is a good thing. Or renting a safe deposit box in a bank is a great idea & the cost of which is tax deductible if you itemize.
• Protect your personal computers: Use fire-walls; anti-virus software for your computers; apply update security patches & change internet passwords often. If you have a wireless router at home, make sure you have installed a safe network and you need a password to log in to your network. This is quite simple to set up or usually the router support staff can walk you through it.
• Don’t give personal information over the phone unless you initiated contact or you are absolutely sure you know who you are dealing with.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft:
If you are not currently affected by this but you think you are at a risk either due to a stolen purse or lost papers; questionable credit card activity or credit report, contact the IRS Identity Protection SU at 800-908-4490.
Be alert to possible ID Theft if you receive a notice from the IRS or learn from your tax professional that:
• More than one tax return was filed on your behalf.
• You have a balance due, refund offset or collection actions taken against you for a year in which you did not file tax returns.
• IRS records indicate that you received more wages than you actually earned or
• Your state or federal benefits changed due to an income change reported on your behalf.
• Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit Form 14039. Follow directions on the form that relate to your specific circumstances.
Additional Steps with Agencies outside IRS:
1. Create Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission here.
2. File a report with the local police.
3. Contact the fraud departments of the 3 major credit bureaus: Equifax (www.equifax.com); Experian (www.experian.com); TransUnion (www.transunion.com)
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