IRVINE, Calif., March 30, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- As tax day approaches and personal financial information circulates at an increased rate, consumers may leave themselves vulnerable to identity theft, according to a recent survey conducted by Experian's ProtectMyID™, a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud resolution.(1) Identity theft is a growing problem that continues to affect millions of people annually. In fact, a recent report released by the Federal Trade Commission names identity theft as the top consumer complaint in the United States for the 11th consecutive year.(2)
With so many millions of people filing taxes and circulating legal and financial documents throughout tax season, it is especially important to protect personal financial information such as W-2 forms and bank statements. According to survey results, 48 percent of consumers store their tax documents in an unsecured location. Document security is one of many factors that can increase or decrease one's risk of identity theft during tax season.
"Tax season is often an overwhelming time for people and the possibility of identity theft may not be top of mind as they are quickly prepping documents in paper form and online," said Jennifer Leuer, general manager of Experian's ProtectMyID. "This period is stressful enough without the added worry of identity theft, and tax filers can take comfort in knowing that ProtectMyID is a valuable partner in helping to alleviate this pressure."
With less than a month remaining before the April 18th tax deadline, Experian's ProtectMyID has created a list of important considerations for consumers to bear in mind while navigating the preparation and filing processes.
ProtectMyID's tax time tips:
- Enjoy the convenience of filing online, but don't forget to protect your financial security. Nearly 75 percent of survey respondents file their taxes electronically, with only 25 percent of these individuals enlisting a professional.
- Make sure that all computer antivirus settings are up to date.
- Once all information has been submitted online, ensure that all cookies (information stored on computers by Web browsers) are permanently deleted.
- Prior to enlisting an online service for tax preparation and/or filing, establish that the site is secure and confirm that any third-party product has a customer safety guarantee in place.
- Physical tax filers should also beware. Preparing taxes by hand is an arduous task, and it is important to review personal practices to maximize protection. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed noted that they prepare and file their own taxes.
- Whenever possible, send tax documents via Certified Mail™ from a secured Post Office™ location. Seventy-five percent of individuals who file personally fail to do so.
- Make sure to store current and old tax documents in a secure, locked place within your home or elsewhere and completely shred any unneeded financial documents.
- Think enlisting an accountant protects you from identity theft? Think again. Regardless of the preparer, the need to protect one's personal financial information remains of paramount importance.
- Surprisingly, 89 percent of individuals who use a tax professional or service are not concerned about their accountant losing their financial information.
- When filing with an accountant, be sure to confirm that your data is stored securely and that old documents are safely saved or destroyed.
- Ask your accountant if he or she has up-to-date security software on his or her computer(s), especially if filing electronically.
About Experian's ProtectMyID
ProtectMyID is a leading, full-service provider of identity theft detection, protection and fraud 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 in more than 90 countries. The company 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 March 31, 2010, was $3.9 billion.
Experian employs approximately 15,000 people in 40 countries and has its corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, with operational headquarters in Nottingham, UK; Costa Mesa, California; 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.
Experian is a nonexclusive full-service provider licensee of the United States Postal Service®. The following trademarks are owned by the United States Postal Service®: Certified Mail and Post Office. The price for Experian's services is not established, controlled or approved by the United States Postal Service.
(1) Study was conducted in March 2011 by Impulse Research Group
(2) Report was issued by the Federal Trade Commission in 2011