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During tax season, your accountant isn’t the only who is busy processing your information. Identity thieves are also staying busy. The IRS reported that identity theft investigations have risen 66% since last year. What can you do to protect yourself from threats to your identity?

Protect Against Identity Theft Scams

During tax season, your accountant isn’t the only who is busy processing your information. Identity thieves are also staying busy. The IRS reported that identity theft investigations have risen 66% since last year. What can you do to protect yourself from threats to your identity?

  • Never carry your social security card in your wallet. This number is the skeleton key to unlocking identity vulnerabilities if your wallet is taken. Credit cards can be cancelled, your social security card cannot.
  • Be cautious of providing any information to phishing schemes. When you receive unsolicited emails or phone calls asking for any personal information from you, check the source before providing anything. Your bank, the IRS and your security company will not contact you via email and ask for your social security number, birth date or address.
  • If you are contacted that you’ve won a contest you don’t recall entering and are required to give information to secure your winnings, be wary. The only ones winning these sweepstakes are identity thieves.
  • Protect your child’s identity, too. One of the fastest growing segments of identity theft is the stealing of a child’s Social Security number, name and other identifying information. Often, it is a relative or a close friend of the child’s parents who steals the information to set up new credit or bank accounts. You may not know there is a problem until you try to get your child a driver’s license, open up a checking account for him or her, or apply for a student loan. You can pull a child’s credit history once he or she turns 13, and you should do that annually once your kids are teenagers.

If you are contacted and aren’t sure whether the person is trying to scam you, try these easy steps:

The best way to avoid getting ripped off is to make sure you’re always in control of your money and personal financial information. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself according to the FBI:

  1. Ask for a call-back number. If someone calls and says he or she is from your bank, credit card company, doctor’s office or another place with which you do business, tell the person you’re too busy to talk and ask for a phone number to call him or her back. If the individual says, “I’ll call you back at a more convenient time,” then hangs up, you can then call the doctor’s office, bank or credit card company and ask if they are trying to reach you for any reason.
  2. Report the scam to the company in question. If it turns out that no one at the bank, credit card company or doctor’s office called you, you’ll know someone tried to pull a fast one. Ask for the department that monitors fraud and tell them what happened.
  3. Report the scam to the FTC. While the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) won’t investigate individual complaints, it does catalog them and look for trends and large-scale fraud. You can file a complaint at ftc.gov. If the fraud involves the IRS (such as someone pretending to be from the IRS or if it involves children), you can call the Treasury Department directly to file a complaint.
  4. Hang up. If you don’t want to get ripped off, the easiest thing to do is to decline to give any personal information over the telephone to anyone. If someone hits you up for a contribution to a charity, ask them to mail you information instead.

For more details about identity theft, scams and ways to help yourself, use these resources:

https://www.discover.com/company/corporate-responsibility/financial-education/identity-theft/common-scams.html

http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud

http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-12-2013/worst-scam-artists-exposed.html

http://news.yahoo.com/4-billion-bogus-tax-refunds-growing-problem-163413856–finance.html

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