posted by:  Heinz Brisske

As the tax filing season opens, the IRS has offered eight tips for protecting yourself against identity theft.

1. Social Security Number – Don’t carry your Social Security card or other identification items that contain a Social Security number in a wallet or purse.

2. Protect SSN – Don’t give out your Social Security number to stores or businesses unless there is a specific reason.

3. Financial Information – Protect your financial information and don’t give out any of your banking information to anyone without a specific reason or requirement.

4. Credit Report – Check your credit report at least once each year with one of the major credit agencies.

5. SSN Earnings Statement – Each year when you receive your earnings report from the Social Security Administration, check it for accuracy.

6. Personal Information – In your home, keep your sensitive personal information in a safe or locked cabinet.

7. Personal Computers – Use a virus-checking software program on your computer. Update your operating system with security patches as they become available. Change the passwords for your banking or financial accounts regularly.

8. Phone Solicitors – Never give out your Social Security number, personal information or financial information over the phone. Never.

Warning signs that your identity has been compromised include:

  • If you are notified that more than one tax return was filed with your name, an identity thief might have been successful in an early filing;
  • If you receive a request for tax due or a refund in a year where you were not required to file, that indicates someone else has filed using your name;
  • If someone files and claims a large income and substantial tax refund, you may suffer a loss of your state or federal benefits.

There are several steps that you should take if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft.

  1.  Local Police – File a report with your local police department.
  2. Federal Trade Commission – The FTC has an identity theft hotline at (877)438-4338.
  3. Credit Bureau – You can request a “fraud alert” note on your record from Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) or TransUnion (800-680-7289).