While identity theft has always been a concern, protecting your identity is more important now than ever. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, since data breaches began being tracked in 2005, they have doubled each year, with more than 675,000 records compromised by data breaches in 2014.
“You keep thinking it can’t get worse and 2015 has really shown that it’s gotten worse,” IDT911 CEO Matt Cullina told Claims Journal. “What we’re starting to see now is a causal connection between all the data breaches that just keep proliferating and actual identity theft.”
What’s especially troubling about the currently high number of data breaches is that they go beyond bank and credit card information and tend to compromise more sensitive information, such as Social Security Numbers, for even more damaging identity theft cases. Cullina said tax fraud is one of the most common forms of this identity theft and that 20 percent of tax scam victims also experience other kinds of financial fraud. In these tax cases, criminals will typically steal a person’s identity and either with a legitimate or false job, they will file taxes online to try to get the return before the victim does.
While individuals are always at risk for this kind of theft, Claims Journal reported that small and midsize companies have become a huge chunk of reported victims, as a way for thefts to gain access to larger companies. Healthcare providers are one of the most frequently targeted businesses because of how much personal information they store. Healthcare data breaches accounted for 68.3 percent of reported breaches in 2015, according to ID Theft Resource Center.
The good news is the IRS is taking initiative to reverse these growing numbers. During the 2014 fiscal year, the IRS launched 1,063 investigations to combat tax fraud, a model they’re continuing to use to successfully prevent more identity theft cases.
According to their report, their Criminal Investigation efforts resulted in a 75 percent increase in sentencing, rising from 438 in 2013 to 785. The incarceration rate for tax fraud also rose significantly from 7.1 percent to 87.7 percent.
As an individual or business owner filing taxes, education is key in preventing identity theft. Knowing what to look for and how to protect yourself can ward off thefts, especially in tax season. The number of theft cases increases each year only because criminals can find new ways to access personal information, making it crucial to take any and all preventive measures.
“What we’re finding is the more and more we can educate from the bottom up and top down in an organization, that awareness goes a long way to protecting against data loss,” Cullina explained.
It’s important for consumers to be careful with the access they provide other people in a time when everyone is especially vulnerable to ID theft . For additional protection, be sure to invest in a credit monitoring service, which can notify you of certain activities that may indicate fraud. The more you know, the better ou can protect yourself.