The phrase prevention rather than cure is certainly relevant when it comes to identity theft, especially if it’s related to your tax affairs. Any kind of fraudulent activity in relation to your own data is bad enough, but if criminals get hold of your Social Security number and other basic details such as your name and address, they may try and get hold of your tax refund too.
Thankfully, the IRS has procedures in place not only to help reduce the threat of this happening, but there are also plenty of complimentary tools you can use too. Signing up for an identity theft protection package is one of the best ways to supplement much of the IRS common sense advice for combating ID theft.
However, it’s also a good idea to be fairly up to speed on what to look out for if you’re worried about personal identity theft. Even if you’re not unduly concerned about it, there are still plenty of signs you can keep in mind for reference, just in case you may, one day, find that your personal data has been compromised. Nobody is immune from tax identity theft, so it’s certainly advisable to know what to look out for.
One of the main things you can do in order to keep an eye out for possible signs of more general identity theft is by keeping close tabs on your bank statements. If you’ve noticed something that doesn’t quite look right, or indeed you’ve had a check bounce, then it could be that there is fraudulent activity happening on one or more of your bank accounts.
Although this can be a hassle to put right you want to act as soon as possible, by notifying your bank and closing the account. Chances are you’ll have things like payments that go out of the account, so be sure to notify the payees or amend the payment details to ensure that there aren’t more problems further down the line.
While personal banking is one thing, it’s tax identity theft that can cause even more of a nightmare. Generally you’ll find that tax-related ID theft, along with tax refund fraud, can often happen if criminals manage to get hold of your personal details such as name, address and date of birth, along with your Social Security number.
If this happens you’ll probably have difficulty filing your own tax return and the reason for that is fraudsters will often file for a tax refund using your information. If the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t contacted you informing you of suspicious activity then you’ll want to get in touch with them as soon as possible.
Another step in this process is to notify the Federal Trade Commission too, along with the local police, which may help expedite any follow up investigations.
Of course, tax identity theft could be just one part of fraudulent activity that might affect you. Perhaps the worst part about having your Social Security number compromised though is that it’s more complex to sort the issue out. While having things like credit card accounts used fraudulently is one thing, the knock-on effect of someone stealing your Social Security number is more profound.
It’s relatively easy to get a replacement credit card, but once your Social Security number has been stolen there are several hurdles that need to be overcome. The other thing is that, even if you’re vigilant, the telltale signs of tax identity theft can take a while to filter through.
If you’re generally slow at filing your tax return then it’s a good idea to revisit that line of thinking and try to file as soon as you can. By doing this you could steal a march on criminals if they’ve managed to get hold of your Social Security number.
One of the quickest ways of keeping tabs on whether or not you’ve been a victim of identity theft is to get regular insights on your credit report. Using the services of an identity theft protection service can help you do this, while the three main bureaus should also be contacted if you spot something untoward. Although Equifax, Experian and TransUnion operate independently, if you tell one credit bureau about your suspicions they will notify the others.
Simply checking your credit score and viewing credit reports on a regular basis can often help you to see if there has been any strange activity going on in relation to your personal data. Similarly though, lookout for things like bills going missing, or if you start getting bills that aren’t anything to do with you or your activities. The same goes if you start receiving calls from debt collectors, and remember not to give any unsolicited callers your personal details either.
The dark web
Remember that there’s endless demand for information such as your personal details and tax data, especially on the dark web. This shady area of the internet is thriving and many aspects of its operation include the buying and selling of personal IDs, including names, addresses and Social Security numbers. You name it and the dark web probably has it.
While you might not be able to completely eradicate the risk of personal identity theft, there’s plenty of preventative measures and safeguards that you can have in place to at least minimise the risk. If you’re thinking about an identity theft protection package then there are plenty of options. Alongside one of those though you should always exercise caution if you’re contacted and always keep your Social Security number in a safe place.
These may seem like pretty straightforward tips but, used in conjunction with an identity theft protection package, they’ll go a long way to helping you stay more secure. And, crucially, keeping your tax-related identity as much of a secret as it needs to be.