Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

14 January 2014 by LT Timothy Frey

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has designated January 13th to 17th as Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. The Lancaster City Police Department is joining the FTC in an effort to raise awareness of this growing problem. Each tax season, LCPD receives numerous reports from citizens who find out that their tax returns have already been filed fraudulently. The following are tips to protect your identity during this tax season and throughout the year.

■The best defense is to file your tax returns as early in the season as possible to prevent someone who already has your information from beating you to it.
■Ensure that your home Wifi network is secured with a password and consider installing a firewall, especially if you are filing your tax return electronically. 
■If you have any doubts about the security of your home internet connection, consider mailing the return directly from a post office.  Never send outgoing mail from an unsecured home mailbox.
■If you have a third party prepare your tax return, be sure to research the tax preparer thoroughly before providing your personal information.  Check reviews and references.
■Be aware that the IRS will only contact you through the US Mail.  Do not respond to requests for information by phone, email, or any other means.
■Purchase a quality cross-cut shredder and always shred all sensitive information.  This includes any tax preparation documents that you do not need, including bank statements, credit card statements, and junk mail, such as preapproved credit card offers.
■Visit and request your credit report annually. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCPA) requires each of the three credit bureaus to provide you with a free credit report once every 12 months. To keep a consistent watch on your financial safety, consider staggering the requests from each bureau every four months throughout the year.
■If you find that your social security number has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Unit at 1-800-908-4490.