Tax day 2011: Four ways to protect your tax returns from data thieves
Tax-related identity theft is the fastest growing kind of identity theft. Between 2005 and 2009 complaints to the Federal Trade Commission tripled from 11,000 to nearly 34,000, according to a Scripps Howard News Service investigation. Thieves steal personal information to use for themselves or sell, or they take it to divert a tax refund into their own pockets. Identity theft, as a whole, is on the decline, but the abundance of personal information in circulation during tax season makes it a prime time for thieves to strike. Here are four tips for keeping your information safe:
1. Store and send electronic documents with caution
If youâ€™re planning to store any sensitive personal information on your computer, first make sure itâ€™s virus free. If your computer is infected with malicious software, itâ€™s possible for somebody else to steal documents or record your keystrokes.
â€śAnything that you send electronically or type electronically could potentially be gleaned by a thief,â€ť says Denise Terry of myID.com.
Ms. Terry says that if youâ€™re using an accountant, itâ€™s much safer to hand deliver electronic files on a USB, and if you must e-mail it, do so using a secure link. You should also make sure your accountant will delete or destroy the files after your return is submitted.
[Editor's note: The number of identity theft complaints to the FTC between 2005 and 2009 was not originally attributed to the Scripps Howard News Service. That statistic came from a Scripps analysis of 1.4 million complaints to the FTC that the news service obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.]
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