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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

Keep an Eye Out for Last Year’s Tax Forms as January Starts

With January marking the beginning of a New Year, you're going to start receiving a whole bevy of documentation that essentially summarizes your borrowing activity over the past 12 months. Since you'll be taking this time to organize information that you'll need to file your taxes, and with any luck get a sizable refund from the government, you'll want to keep a close eye on your mail. Many of these documents will have sensitive information on them that, if stolen, could help an identity thief cash in on your refund.

Expect W-2s from your employers
Every employer you've had over the previous year is required to provide you with a W-2 tax form. These documents summarize your wages and over what period of time during the past 12 months you were employed with a particular organization. If you are still working at a certain company come January that you had been employed by back in December, your employer may hand you your W-2 at work. However, they may opt to mail it instead, and if you had worked for a different company over the past year as well and are no longer employed with that organization, you can expect a W-2 in the mail from them as well.

Don't blindly trust the security of your mailbox
If you don't receive a W-2 from one of your employers by the beginning of February, you should contact them to make sure that it was sent out to you, as the law requires. Although mail sometimes gets lost in the process, there is always the risk that someone took your W-2. This can be dangerous because it contains personal information on it, such as your name and address, which a thief could use to figure out your Social Security number.

Look into issues the second you feel suspicious
Go to the Social Security Administration's website and open up an account so that you can check to make sure no one has filed a tax return using your Social Security number. If someone already has filed for the previous year using your name, dispute the claim immediately with the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

Going into the New Year, be sure to help yourself avoid identity fraud by enlisting in a credit monitoring service. This type of service can help you keep an eye on financial activities in your name and alert you to certain changes that you may discover are a potential sign of identity theft. And if you do notice anything on your credit report that you may need to address, you can do so before a thief does further damage.