The Theft Man Cometh

Identity theft

Though it is said nothing is certain but death and taxes, soon identity theft may join that list.

According to Justice Department data, more than 16 million Americans experienced an incident of identity theft in 2012.

Data Privacy Day, observed worldwide Jan. 28, seeks to improve those figures.

If you're already keeping your Social Security card in a safe place, updating the anti-virus software on your computer and shredding sensitive documents, then you're making the right moves to protect yourself.

But tax season is a boom time for identity thieves, so be sure to:

  • Check references to ensure anyone helping you with your tax preparation can be trusted.
  • File taxes early, decreasing the opportunity for a thief to falsely file using your Social Security number.
  • Submit only through a secure Internet connection when e-filing your return. If filing by mail, send your return directly from the post office.
  • Never respond to emails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service asking for personal information. The IRS will contact you only by mail.
  • Use a unique and strong username and password for each financial and tax preparation site you use.

"Identity thieves are working overtime to discover your passwords -- and you make yourself extremely vulnerable when you use the same one as all your other online accounts," says Bob Meighan, vice president of consumer advocacy at TurboTax®.

Another important step is monitoring your credit reports, adds Bob Gallo, director of USAA's Privacy Office.

"And don't forget about your other family members," Gallo says. "Identity thieves often target children and the elderly."

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Identity Theft