We’re in the thick of tax season, and that means it’s also prime time for identity theft.
Take a look around your home office, the family computer area, or that corner of the kitchen that attracts paper. Somewhere, you’ve got a mounting stack, and I’m willing to bet it includes credit card receipts, maybe some bank statements for those of you who haven’t yet gone paperless, and some other documents that include your social security number.
Here’s some friendly advice: keep all your documents together in one spot, like in a binder or folder. Even if you don’t have time to file things away in their own folders, designate one central “slush file” that you can revisit later. Do not keep your valuable papers tossed on the front seat of your car! Even better than a file or binder is a locked, fireproof safety box.
Keep on the lookout for “phishing” scams online. These fraudulent e-mails might look like they’re coming from a financial institution or a government institution like the IRS, but they’re really the product of scammers trying to get your personal info.
When e-filing your faxes, check to see if your computer’s spyware and anti-virus software is turned on and up-to-date.
Never leave outgoing checks or mail in your mailbox. Instead, avoid mail theft by using the post office. Hand your checks-by-mail directly to a postal clerk, or at least deposit them into an official mailbox inside the post office lobby.
With a little common sense and good habits, you can avoid identity theft at tax time and year-round.