All too frequently, people have their identity stolen. Despite our best efforts, there are computer hackers, lost Social Security cards and sketchy websites that allow criminals to disrupt our lives, often causing serious damage to our finances.
There are a number of warning signs that could mean you’ve been a victim of identity theft. If you see errors on your bank, credit card or other accounts, or an unexpected drop in your credit score, you should immediately investigate and ask questions.
Also, be concerned if your regular bills don’t arrive on time – or at all. If you receive a notice that you didn’t file a tax return in a state where you don’t file one, or, if you receive a refund before you’ve filed a return, you should contact the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, the state says. Another red flag, says the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, is if you receive a W-2 that you didn’t request, from an employer you don’t know.
The best thing to do, officials say, is to contact state revenue officials as soon as possible to alert them to a possible fraudulent return using your identity. Filing a report with the Fraud Detection and Analysis Unit, including as much detail as possible, is also recommended. You should also send an email to RA-RVPITFRAUD@pa.gov. and contact your local police department.
Should you find yourself a victim of identity theft, experts recommend you take several immediate steps.
First, freeze your bank accounts and credit cards and contact all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – directing them to freeze your credit. This will prevent anyone from opening an account in your name. You may also want to ask one or more of the credit bureaus to add a fraud alert to your accounts.
Another recommendation is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov. Also, financial advisors suggest that you paper-file your most current tax return and include Form 14039 (Identity Theft Affidavit).
Dealing with identity theft requires vigilance. You’ll need to monitor your credit report activity for suspicious activities and/or new accounts, and respond immediately if you have concerns. Additionally, you should respond immediately to any correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service. If you need assistance, contact the IRS’s special identity theft unit at 1-800-908-4490.
Some steps you can take to minimize, if not entirely prevent, identity theft include:
- Storing and disposing of documents properly
- Installing firewalls and virus-detection software on your computers
- Updating sharing and firewall settings when using public Wi-Fi
- Using virtual private networks, if you’re using public Wi-Fi
- Changing your passwords frequently
- Avoiding the use of characters that can easily be figured out. You should always mix numbers with letters and characters to create the safest possible passwords.
When it comes to identity theft, you cannot be too vigilant. Be mindful, do not give your personal information out to people or companies you are not familiar with, especially over the telephone. If you have any questions or concerns about a call or notice you have received, your tax advisor at Diamond CPAs can help. We are here to help keep you and your identity safe.