This time of year is closely associated with tax preparation – but did you know that reports of identity theft rise during tax season?
Each year as people compile their financial information and prepare to pay their taxes, many find that someone else has already filed tax information and collected a refund in their name.
Fraudulent tax filing is just one way that identity theft perpetuates in our society. Identity theft is an increasingly common problem, and hackers have many opportunities to steal your private information. However, there are ways that you can protect yourself and restore your good standing if your identity is stolen.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits in the other person’s name, as defined by Cyber Space Times.
Once an identity thief has your vital information, they can drain your bank account, open credit cards, and get medical treatment under your health insurance. They can even file a tax refund in your name.
Identity Theft Protection Tips
Identity theft can happen to anyone. If you shop, file your taxes, use email, or even browse online, your identity is at risk. Even a young child with no digital footprint, or a person taking an analog approach to their information, can have their identity stolen. To prevent identity theft, you need to proactively protect yourself from bad actors.
- Monitor your bank accounts closely – we recommend checking your balance daily to quickly identify any transactions that are out of the ordinary.
- Use your credit card’s monitoring service or a third-party service to monitor your credit score each week
- Purchase identity theft protection through your insurance broker. Your Private Client Group account executive can assist you in obtaining identity theft protection through your preferred carriers, or through a third party service.
- Many carriers offer identity theft protection through your home or auto policy for a nominal fee. They may also provide resources to help put your name back in good standing if your identity is stolen.
How to Identify if Your Identity Has Been Stolen
So, how do you know if you’re one of the unlucky victims of identity theft? These are a few of the signs that your identity is at risk:
- You notice withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain or don’t recognize
- You stop getting mail that you usually receive
- Merchants suddenly start refusing your checks
- Collection agencies start calling you about bills that are not yours
- You see a sudden, dramatic difference in your credit score
- You receive a medical bill for services that you don’t recall getting
- The IRS notifies you of more than one tax return filed in your name
- As you file your taxes, you see you have income on file for an employer you never worked for
What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
It’s true that a stolen identity puts you at financial and personal risk. However, if you’ve purchased identity protection through your home or auto policy, you may access to resources that can help. Your account executive can submit a claim to access those resources and help you restore your identity.
In addition to communicating with your Private Client Group account executive, it is best practice to report your identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on identitytheft.gov.
Reach out to your Private Client Group Account Executive if you believe your identity has been compromised, or for more information on attaining identity theft protection.
Abigail Ryskoski, CIC, CISR is a Private Client Risk Executive at M3 Insurance.