Identity Theft Resource Center Tells Top Tips for Tax Time...

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Tax Time or Prime Time for Identity Theft

SAN DIEGO, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

By now, most of you have received your W-2's and other tax reporting forms used in preparing your taxes. The question is: where are those forms kept in your home? Are they lying on a table top or somewhere anyone can see them? Or, are they in a locked box or file cabinet?

Your W-2's, and other IRS reporting forms, include your Social Security Number and, in some cases, financial account information. These numbers can be a gold mine for identity thieves. They literally can kidnap your identity: obtain a job, open up new lines of credit, access existing financial accounts or stock portfolios, get welfare, avoid a criminal history and generally create havoc in your life.

For the identity thief, tax time is a prime time of opportunity. With that in mind, the Identity Theft Resource Center(R) wants to remind consumers and businesses to be careful when handling tax-related documents and information.

Here are some tips on how to minimize the risk of identity theft: --

Paper security

Keep tax paperwork in a safe, locked location. Financial documents don't belong in a briefcase. They can be lost or stolen if left unguarded in your car or at work for even a few minutes.

Document Disposal

Put papers you no longer need through a cross-cut shredder. These include credit card receipts, other papers with Social Security Numbers (i.e. income reporting forms), financial statements, health benefit statements and loan documents.

Computer Security

If your computer is linked to the internet, be sure to regularly update firewall, antivirus, and spyware software to protect you from invasion. Since many taxpayers now file online, or store financial information on their computers, it is vitally important to install and update these types of security programs.

Mail Theft Awareness

Be sure to retrieve your mail every day. An unlocked mailbox is an open invitation to an identity thief to steal your tax refund check. Uncollected mail is another opportunity for a thief. When mailing your tax documents, take them directly to the Post Office. Drop them in a box inside the Post Office. If you must use an outside Post Office pickup box, it's best to drop your mail before the last pick-up of the day. Don't leave tax documents in an outgoing mail box at work.

Tax Preparers and Personal Privacy

Be selective about who works on your taxes. Investigate tax preparation companies with the Better Business Bureau, especially new or seasonal offices. Ask the preparer...

how your information will be stored?
Will it be encrypted?
What computer security software is used?
Who has access to this information?
Has the person working on your taxes undergone a thorough background screening?
How many years have they worked for the company?
Do you see personal papers displayed on desks?

Trust your impressions.

If you feel uncomfortable, or doubt the firm's commitment to protecting your privacy, take your business elsewhere.

The phrase "buyer beware" especially applies to "on-line tax preparers.
Who are these people?
What do you know about them?
Are they really a company or legitimate accountant or is it a scam to gather Social Security and account information from you?

Avoid doing financial business in supermarket concession booths, where others may hear or see your transaction. Those mini offices are not soundproof -- and criminals have been observed watching transactions with telescopic lenses. Go some place where you have privacy.

Tax Time Scams If you receive an email asking for your Social Security Number or financial information, delete it or send it to the FTC at for investigation.

The IRS does not send emails stating you are being electronically audited or that you are getting a refund. If you have any questions about an email you received from the IRS, or a letter that sounds suspicious, immediately call the IRS Taxpayers Advocates at 877-777-4778.

Employment Identity Theft Identity theft goes beyond the well-known forms of financial identity theft. Sometimes identity thieves use your identity to get a job. They may be employed and using your Social Security Number -- or even your child's Social Security Number. In these situations, the IRS may send a notice indicating that more than one person is using a Social Security Number, or that you owe taxes. If this happens, immediately contact the IRS Taxpayer Advocates or the Identity Theft Resource Center at 858-693-7935 for assistance.

Where to Go For More Information or Help:

Identity Theft Resource Center 858-693-7935 or

IRS Taxpayer Advocates 1-877-777-4778

Federal Trade Commission

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