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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | article

It’s Tax Season Again — Keep an Eye Out for Important Documents

On January 30, the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting the necessary documents for tax season and, of course, some citizens could be due hefty refunds while others might be required to write Uncle Sam a check after filing. Whether or not you are expecting some cash back from the government this year, be sure to file early and keep all of the necessary incoming financial information organized. Neglecting to do so could put your finances in harm's way, resulting in identity theft, and it may cost you much more than just your tax refund.

The most important document you need to provide the government is the W-2 form provided to you by your employer. Any company that you received a salary from over the past year — even if you were only employed for the duration of one paycheck — will either send you a W-2 in the mail or provide it to you on the job should you still work there.

A W-2 can expose you to identity thieves if compromised
These documents have almost every piece of personal identification information about you displayed on them that a thief could use to steal your identity. They are drafted to tell the government how much money you earned while you were employed by an employer, as well as to provide proof that you were actually on the payroll. Details such as your date of birth and Social Security number help verify that your W-2 is legitimate.

You never know who is lurking around your mailbox
Since this valuable form is often mailed to your home address, it is vulnerable to mail fraud which, according to the U.S. Postal Service, spikes during tax season. What happens is opportunistic thieves will literally scope out your mailbox during this time of year and take documents that they assume are tax related. Once they have these documents, they can file for taxes in your name and actually have your refund sent to them. As well, they could use the information to open up new accounts, or a line of credit. Since it is your credit score at stake and not theirs, the thief may have no problem letting payments fall by the wayside, which can ultimately ruin your credit report.

Know what to be expecting as January winds down
Keep a list of what forms you will be expecting in the mail and when you they should be arriving. If your employer, even a former one, has yet to send you a W-2 before the end of January, contact them as soon as possible to make sure that it has in fact been sent out. If it appears that you may have been a victim of mail theft, contact the IRS immediately to investigate whether or not taxes have already been filed in your name.