How to prevent identity theft at tax time

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2015

Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation — and it can take time, money, and patience to resolve. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, can help you repair the damage that identity theft can cause, and reduce the risk of identity theft happening to you.

If you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, acting quickly is the best way to limit the damage. Setting things straight involves some work. However, there are a few things you can do as prevention.  You have a right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Your credit report may show the first signs that someone has misused your information, so it’s important to check your report a few times a year. Ordering a free report every four months lets you monitor your file and spot errors early. You can do this at or by calling 1-877-322-8228. You must give your name, address, social security number, date of birth, and the answers to questions that only you would know – for example, “How much is your monthly mortgage payment?” Each credit reporting company may ask you for different information.

The three credit reporting agencies are Equifax, 1-800-685-1111, , Experian, 1-888-397-3742, , and Transunion, 1-800-916-8800, .

You should read your account and billing statements, review your explanation of medical benefits, and respond quickly to notices from the Internal Revenue Service.

Keep your important papers secure. You can do this by locking them up, limit what you carry, pick up new checks at the bank, be careful with your mail, shred sensitive documents, consider opting out of prescreened offers of credit, protect your medical information, and exercise your curiosity.

Secure your social security number. Protect it and your child’s by sharing it ONLY when necessary. Use other forms of identification if possible. If someone asks you to share your or your child’s number, ask why they need it, how will it be used, how will they protect it, and what happens if you don’t share it. Sometimes you have to share it for work or to apply for credit.

Be aware of impersonators online. Protect your computer and mobile device. Encrypt your data, be wise about Wi-Fi, keep passwords private, don’t overshare on social networking sites, lockup your laptop, and read privacy policies.

If you feel you have been compromised, place an initial fraud alert, order your credit reports, and create an identity theft report. You start this by contacting only ONE credit reporting company. Report that you are an identity theft victim, ask the company to place a fraud alert on your credit file, and confirm that the company will contact the other two companies. This alert is good for 90 days so mark your calendar. It can be renewed. Keep all files and information concerning this incident.


Any questions or comments please contact me at or call 269-683-4411.