Saturday, April 14, 2007

National identity theft awareness week

While identity theft is a year round event, this coming week, could just qualify for National Identity Theft Awareness Week. The week could get this designation because it is becoming one of the more prevalent ones for identity theft due strictly to the time of year. No, there is no such week, but if there were any good time to raise awareness, this week is it.

We wouldn’t be human if we did not have some worry this time of year regarding filing our income taxes.

The forms, the documents, the receipts, the calculator, the room you barricade yourself in, and vow not to emerge until the deed is done. Those are all recurring items that we’ve been through before and will go through again, but we still feel anxiety regardless.

While getting your taxes done is paramount for this time of year, you need to be on alert for more than just an audit. The thieves and con artists go into overdrive this time of year. They feed on your sense of commitment and urgency to get that return done and in on time.

So what should you be concerned about? Here are my top 10 awareness items to think about this week for protecting yourself from an identity thief:

1) Shred all those printed copies that you found mistakes on, and had to reprint.

2) Keep your hard copy of your tax returns locked up.

3) If you use a tax preparer or a CPA, be sure they are securing your information, after you leave the office. Look around to see and verify that they use a shredder. Ask them how they secure your information when they are done for the night.

4) Give some consideration to where you are copying a tax return. It has recently come to light that copiers retain digital information of every copy they make, and some are not being properly erased.

5) If you used software at home on your own PC, save your tax returns to a disc and delete it from your hard drive. Keep in mind if you loose a laptop do you want your tax return available to anyone who acquires it?

6) Ignore and delete emails from the IRS. They don’t have your email address, do you remember providing it to them?

7) Only eFile through the links on the IRS website . Recently thieves have been setting up fake eFile sites and collecting your information.

8) Don’t provide any information to any who calls claiming to be from the IRS.

9) Don’t leave your return in your mailbox. Take it to the post office directly.

10) Use a reputable tax preparer. Remember that you are handing them the keys to your identity, if you don’t know them, they may just drive off with it, or sell the information to a third party.