How safe is your identity? The unfortunate fact is 13.1 million people have had their identity stolen. In fact, every two seconds, another American becomes a victim to this crime. Identity thieves typically spend your money as quickly as possible and often request a change of address, so you do not receive bills for their activity. Criminals may open credit cards, apply for a loan or rent an apartment in your good name.
With tax season just around the corner, it’s important to be informed. The United States Internal Revenue Service warns Americans of identity theft and tax refund fraud—its No. 1 scam. Identity thieves use stolen personal information to file tax returns to receive the refunds. This identity theft tactic is a “growing epidemic,” according to Reuters.
Here’s how it works:
1. Thieves steal personal identifying information—such as your name, Social Security number or other data.
2. They file a fraudulent tax return in the victim’s name—usually early to ensure they receive the refund before the victim files.
3. When victims attempt to file their taxes, they receive a notice from the IRS stating that more than one tax return was filed.
If you fall victim to fraud, your tax refund will most likely be late. The IRS will contact you to begin the process of confirming your identity. Clearing your name and erasing the effects of identity theft can take months or even years to re-establish creditworthiness. According to reports, the IRS takes an average of 312 days to resolve tax-related theft cases.
Busey has five tips to protect yourself from identity theft:
1. Shred. Shred anything containing personal information before disposing of it. Reduce your risk of fraud by signing up for eStatements—no shredding required and access to your statements anytime!
2. Lock. Password protect your devices and use unique, complicated passwords for your online accounts. Use a combination of letters/numbers for your passwords and change them periodically.
3. Secure. Never log in to financial accounts or shop online using public Wi-Fi. Ensure your internet at home is password protected.
4. Monitor. Review your credit report annually and bank accounts regularly. Look for suspicious activity and errors that could signify identity theft. With ebank, you can review your accounts 24/7. Also, keep an eye out for any missing mail.
5. Detect. With antivirus software, you can help detect and protect against cyber criminals.
Identity theft is not only frightening; it can be costly. With constant changes in technology, there are always new risks. If anything causes concern, report suspected fraud immediately to your bank and credit reporting agencies. If you become a victim of identity theft, Busey suggests the following steps:
• File a police report and call the Federal Trade Commission’s toll-free Identity Theft Hotline at 877.438.4338.
• Notify the three credit bureaus’ fraud departments. Request a “fraud alert” be placed in your file, as well as a victim’s statement asking creditors to call you before opening any new accounts.
• Request a copy of your credit report. Credit reports are free to fraud victims.
• Contact your creditors for any fraudulently opened accounts. Close compromised accounts and obtain new credit, debit and ATM cards.
• Report suspected stolen mail to your local postal inspector and check the post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
Busey wants you to be informed of any security issues, scams or alerts that may compromise your personal or financial information. Visit the Information Security Center for a variety of resources to help protect your identity. Visit busey.com or call 1.800.67Busey today to ensure your identity isn’t compromised.