Do you know what last week was? Doesn’t everyone know what last week was? According to the Federal Trade Commission, it was Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week (January 26-30, 2015)! The FTC hosted national and regional events designed to raise awareness about tax identity theft, providing consumers with tips on how to protect themselves and what to do if they become victims.
Now, if you happened to have missed those awareness events, I have come to your rescue and have compiled a cheat sheet of what to do if you believe your identity was stolen.
If you feel you are a victim of identity theft:
- File a report with the local police.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
If your SSN was compromised or you think you may be a victim of a tax-related identity theft:
- Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided on the notice (I recommend calling your accountant first!)
- Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then mail or fax according to instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
With regards to information relating to data breaches and your taxes (think Target, Home Depot, Michaels, Neiman Marcus, Dairy Queen and Kmart, just to name a few), not all data breaches or computer hacks result in tax-related identity theft. It’s important to know what type of personal information was stolen. If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, reach out to the company to learn what services they are offering to protect you.
Simple ways to reduce your risk of identity theft from a data breach:
- Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card or any document with your SSN on it.
- Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask – only when absolutely necessary.
- Protect your personal financial information at home and on your computer.
- Check your credit report annually.
- Check your Social Security Administration earnings statement annually.
- Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches and change passwords for Internet accounts.
- Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail, or the Internet, unless you have either initiated the contact or are sure you know who is asking.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. They have teams available to assist you. For more information, you can visit the following websites: www.irs.gov/identitytheft or FTC’s www.identitytheft.gov.
With all of your personal information being out there in the cloud, don’t keep your head in the clouds about identity theft. Know how to prevent it and what steps to take if it happens to you.