Beware Identity Theft is Everywhere Not Just NJ
Identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), was the top complaint the FTC received for the past 15 years, increasing 47% from 2014 to 2015 as a result of a massive increase in tax-related identity theft. Identity thieves have become so skilled and clever that airtight prevention is impossible. Thieves can penetrate encrypted personnel records and email exchanges. And the costs of identity theft to victims are grossly underestimated and often focus solely on the monetary value of the theft. Enduring social and psychological costs are typically ignored, even though these consequences may turn out to be far more irremediable than the financial losses. In 2015, over 724,000 identities were stolen from the IRS's Get Transcript system, and of CPAs polled by The Tax Adviser and JofA, 59% said at least one of their clients was a victim of tax identity theft in the 2016 filing season.
To help prevent future identity theft, clients can take several steps:
- Check credit scores regularly.
- Some credit card companies provide this as part of their monthly statement.
- Invest with companies that voluntarily adopt online fraud policies that promise to reimburse assets stolen in unauthorized online transactions.
- Keep important documents in a secure location such as a safe or a locking file.
- Before giving out an SSN, ask what the business will do with the information, why it needs your SSN, and what will happen if you refuse its request.
- Shred or hide all documents that contain full account numbers or other sensitive information.
- Keep wallets and purses out of plain sight.
- Password protect all electronic devices with passwords that are not obvious, contain at least eight characters, and include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Choose different passwords for different accounts. Change passwords regularly. Store passwords away from the computer. Use two-factor authentication where available.
- Only install known, safe software. Also install a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software to detect unwanted programs. Click only on safe links.
- Frequently back up critical information. Residents of Florida, Georgia, and the District of Columbia should order a preventive identity protection personal identification number (IP PIN) from the IRS.
- Frequently check social media postings and privacy settings.