COSTA MESA, Calif., March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The threat of identity theft this tax season leaves consumers with more to worry about than whether or not a tax return is in the mail. Experian's ProtectMyID®, a multilayered identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution product, advises consumers to protect personal financial information found in tax returns. A thief may use sensitive information, such as a Social Security number, to claim a fraudulent tax refund, open fraudulent credit cards and commit other criminal acts that may take months, if not years, to correct.
Tax-related identity theft is a continuing problem. In fact, the National Tax Advocate reports that the use of stolen Social Security numbers to collect fraudulent tax refunds increased more than 78 percent from 2011 to 2012, affecting nearly 450,000 individuals.1
"This is the time of year when personal and financial data circulates through the mail and over the Internet at an increased rate," said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing for Experian's ProtectMyID. "If criminals intercept just one W2 or 1040 form — or if they dupe someone into providing that information — they gain a wealth of information that can be used for identity theft."
The IRS advises2 victims of tax-related identity theft to visit the IRS website and complete Form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit. According to the IRS, it continues to expand the number of Identity Protection Personal Identification Numbers (IP PINs) being issued to victims. The IP PIN is a unique identifier that shows that a particular taxpayer is the rightful filer of the return. In 2013, the IRS has issued IP PINs to more than 600,000 taxpayers who have been victimized by identity theft3.
Experian's ProtectMyID recommends the following tips to help safeguard your identity during tax time:
- Place tax documents in a secure location, such as a safe or a locking file cabinet, and store them there until needed to prepare tax forms. Do not leave them in a car.
- Some tax apps require users to take photos of W2 forms. Be sure to delete images after use.
- Password-protect your smartphone.
- Do not follow links in emails or text messages to the IRS site — always type "irs.gov" directly into a browser to avoid vicious links. Report fraudulent IRS emails, texts or phone calls to email@example.com.
- Keep operating systems and all computer protection software up to date.
- Do not use public computers to e-file taxes.
- Ask tax preparers about computer security measures employed by their offices.
- Don't work with tax preparers who ask clients to sign blank tax returns.
- Wipe the hard drive before disposing of or donating an old computer that contains personal or financial information.
- Monitor credit reports regularly.
"ProtectMyID alerts members to potentially fraudulent credit applications which may have been made using their Social Security numbers," said Chaplin. "Chances are, if a thief is using your Social Security number to open a new line of credit, there's a chance he'll use it to try and submit a false tax return. If you know your personal information has been compromised, it's a very good idea to make use of the tax return protections provided by the IRS."
For more information, visit the ProtectMyID resource center.
About Experian's ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and resolution. ProtectMyID offers comprehensive identity theft protection products supported by experienced identity theft resolution professionals who deliver personal attention that customers can rely on. ProtectMyID.com is a Website owned by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company. For more information about how ProtectMyID helps consumers protect themselves against identity theft, please visit http://www.ProtectMyID.com
Experian® is the leading global information services company, providing data and analytical tools to clients around the world. The Group helps businesses to manage credit risk, prevent fraud, target marketing offers and automate decision making. Experian also helps individuals to check their credit report and credit score, and protect against identity theft.
Experian plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange (EXPN) and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 index. Total revenue for the year ended 31 March 2012 was US$4.5 billion. Experian employs approximately 17,000 people in 44 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; California, US; and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
For more information, visit http://www.experianplc.com.
Experian and the Experian marks used herein are service marks or registered trademarks of Experian Information Solutions, Inc. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
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