Tips To Prevent Identity Theft

Consumer Alert graphic
Consumer Alert graphic

Charleston, SC (WCBD) – It’s that time of the year, tax time and that means thousands of Americans will fall victim to identity theft. An identity thief may use your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job.

The IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. Identity theft can affect how your tax return is processed. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN, however, the IRS doesn’t start contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to

If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS might think you already filed and got your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.

If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, you won’t include those earnings. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice or letter saying you got wages but didn’t report them. The IRS doesn’t know those wages were reported by an employer you don’t know.

10 Tips on Preventing Identity Theft:

1. Put all discarded mail and forms with your personal information on it through a shredder. Use a crosscut shredder if possible. Whatever is in your mailbox or trash can be stolen and used as the basis for opening an account in your name.

2. Check your credit record annually with each of the three major credit agencies:

» Equifax (800-865-1111)
» Experian (888-397-3742)
» Trans-Union (800-888-4213)

3. Never respond to an online query by giving your personal information. There are many attempts now to get this information by saying, for example, that you are preapproved for a mortgage application. This new wave of scamming is called “phishing”. If you respond to it or click a link in it, you will be the phish caught on the hook. Delete such queries. There is no need to give anyone online any personal information unless you have initiated the transaction.

4. If you use online banking and credit card services, make it a habit to check that your entries and your balances are what they should be.

5. Your Social Security number (SSN) is yours. Keep it private for as long as you can. Do not give it out unless you absolutely must. For example, a prospective employer needn’t know the number until after you’ve been hired. Do not carry your Social Security card or number with you.

6. Tell the three major credit reporting agencies to block promotional disclosure of information about you. This reduces the number of pre-approved credit cards that will come to you. The credit reporting opt-out call number is (888) 567-8688.

7. Do not use checks with your driver’s license number, social security number, or telephone number on them.

8. If you are not getting mail that you routinely get, like monthly bills or bank statements, check with your post office to see if a change of address form has been filed in your name.

8. Use a password on your credit card, bank, utility and phone accounts if possible. Using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, your SSN’s last four digits, your phone number or consecutive digits are too easy for others to use.

9. Make sure your computer is as protected as you can make it. Update virus protection software. You wouldn’t invite someone into your home you don’t know; be as leery of links. Keep a firewall on at all times. Before you get rid of a computer, use software that clears your computer of all the information on it.

List of tips provided by:

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