Identity theft is on the rise this tax season as millions of Americans file tax returns and claim their refunds. In February, the Internal Revenue Service placed identity theft at the top of their "Dirty Dozen" tax scams list. Criminals simply use their victims' names and social security numbers to receive the corresponding tax return.
The IRS isn't the only organization working to warn and protect citizens this tax season. Both for-profit and non-profit corporations are tackling the issue as well, for good reason. According to a press release from Fellowes, Inc., the Identity Theft Resource Center has found tax related identity theft has been the number one factor in the increase in the rate of identity theft over past eleven years. The Federal Trade Commission identified it as its number one complaint of 2013.
The non-profit Identity Theft Council has been at the forefront of the anti-tax fraud battle this year. Last week, they released this video, documenting and warning taxpayers of fraud this season:
What's a victim of identity theft to do? The IRS recommends victims contact their Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately toll-free at 1-800-908-4490. But after the fact, how does one restore an identity? The new company, ID360, may have an answer. In a press release announcing their formation, ID360 claims to be able to do the heavy lifting for victims, networking with law enforcement from all over the country.
But for those tax payers just looking to avoid identity theft this spring, the ITRC has a few tips:
-File your taxes as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more time an identity thief has to file a return for you.
-Protect your computers and mobile devices with firewalls, anti-virus software and complex passwords.
-Don't carry your Social Security card or any other documents with your Social Security number with you.
-Order a copy of your free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Stagger these requests throughout the year.
-Shred all no-longer needed tax-related documents that contain sensitive information with a Cross-Cut shredder. Documents include receipts, W-2 forms and tax preparer invoices.
So take heed as you file you taxes this year, because nobody wants to end up like those people from those old Citibank commercials:
Image via The Identity Theft Council, YouTube