According to the FTC, tax realted identity theft tops the list of consumer complaints for the 14th year in a row. While some may hope that this claim is more hyperbole than fact, the statistics, unfortunately, back it up, with nearly 10 million people in 2013 alone becoming victims of ID theft. This crime translated into a net loss of $5 billion for those Americans, obtained through stolen credit card numbers, bank account PINS and passwords, Social Security numbers and other crucial personal information.
Although the Federal Trade Commission only cites stolen mail as responsible for 4 percent of theft of identity cases, the U.S. Postal Inspection has put together a list of identity theft protection measures you can take to better guard your information and your finances against criminals:
- Review your credit report at least once per year. This can be requested by any of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Trans Union, Experian and Equifax.
- Use a shredder to properly dispose of any sensitive documents going into the garbage.
- Don't leave mail sitting in mail boxes overnight or over weekends.
- When sending mail, only deposit your letters in USPS collection boxes.
Tax season is a particularly important time to protect your identity, as ID thieves take advantage of the wealth of personal information floating around - such as W-2s and tax return forms in the mail - to co-opt other people's identities, stealing the refunds that victims are entitled to.
Using a credit monitoring service to look over your credit history and alert you to certain activity that may indicate fraud can help you stay on top of identity theft and minimize the damage it can cause.
Beat ID thieves to your refund. #TAXRACE
– Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration — http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/press/press_tigta-2013-40.htm
– Federal Trade Commission — http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFTC/bulletins/aac993