Langevin, Identity Theft 911 Urge Precautions Following Spate of Criminal Activity
Reflecting their continued commitment to protecting vulnerable Americans from identity theft, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) joined Identity Theft 911 CEO Matt Cullina to bring attention to reports of more than 900 federal criminal charges in the last week and highlight key steps for individuals to protect themselves and their loved ones. The recent news comes as a result of a crackdown by the IRS and Justice Department against refund fraud and identity theft as tax season gets underway.
Langevin and Cullina had previously worked together to pass into law new requirements for states to help foster youth, considered among the most affected populations by identity theft. The law mandates free credit checks on their records and removal of any inaccuracies.
“The sheer volume of identity theft cases brought to light in such a short period of time should serve as a wakeup call to everyone that we are all at risk,” said Langevin. “I pledge to continue to work in Congress to ensure our law enforcement has the tools to find and punish perpetrators and better protect our citizens. In the meantime, I am proud to work with Matt on helping people understand the prevalence of identity theft and publicize ways for them to avoid becoming victims.”
“Tax season is an especially busy time of year for identity thieves,” said Cullina. “No single document contains more personal information than your tax return. Tax-related identity theft has more than doubled since 2008, so it’s imperative that consumers are armed with information to keep their identity – and their return – in their own hands. Although the IRS is making strides in catching fraudulent tax returns, there are steps consumers can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim.”
Tips to Protect Your Identity:
- Keep it safe. Never carry your Social Security card or number in a purse or wallet. Leave it at home in a secure place or in a safe-deposit box.
- Do not store tax information on your computer. Keep sensitive tax information (worksheets, W-2s, 1099s, 1040s) on a password-protected or encrypted external drive or disk, and store it in a secure location, such as a safe-deposit box or a locked safe. If you must store it on your computer, make sure the drive is encrypted. Never store tax files or any personal information on a cloud or Internet.
- Employ strong usernames and passwords, especially when conducting financial business online. Always include numbers, upper- and lowercase characters, and symbols such as *, ! and &.
- Be picky about your preparer. Carefully choose a tax preparer. Many fraud rings front as tax preparation companies that may steal personal information, redirect your return or offer to fraudulently review your returns for inaccuracies.
- Snoop around. Verify the status of your preparer’s license with the Better Business Bureau and IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Email the IRS at email@example.com with the full name of the individual or company and their address to confirm they’re a legitimate operation.
- Do the math. Your annual Social Security Statement will identify all income from individuals working in the United States under your SSN. Do the numbers look right? This can be a good way to spot otherwise undetected identity theft.
- Stalk your mail carrier. Monitor your mailbox and stay on the lookout for W-2s, 1099s and other official tax forms. If any are late or appear to have been opened, contact the provider immediately to find out how and when they were mailed.
- Splurge on the extras. If you file a return by snail mail, make sure to use certified mail from the U.S. Postal Service so you can confirm its arrival.
- Go electronic. Opt for direct deposit of tax refunds to avoid lost or stolen refund checks.