Avoiding Identity Theft

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Best Practices
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Data on the Move
Vehicle break-ins to steal items which can be used to commit identity theft is on the increase. When transferring tax documents between home and the accountant, make sure they are hidden from view, i.e. locked in the trunk, at all times.

Computer Security
If your computer is linked to the internet, be sure to regularly update firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. Sensitive documents should be kept on a computer with a password protected log-on. This computer should never be used by children or others who might install peer-to-peer software (Kazaa or Limewire) or expose the computer to unrestricted web browsing. These activities often result in security problems within days, if not hours.

E-Filing
While preparing your tax return for filing, make sure to use a strong password to protect the data file. Once your return has been e-filed, burn the file to a CD or flash drive and remove the personal information from your hard drive. Store the CD or flash drive in a lock box or safe.

Mail Theft Awareness
When mailing your tax documents, take them directly to the Post Office. Drop them in a box inside the Post Office. If you must use an outside Post Office pickup box, it’s best to drop your mail before the last pick-up of the day. Don’t leave tax documents in an outgoing mail box at work.

Tax Preparers and Personal Privacy
Be selective about who works on your taxes.
Avoid doing financial business in supermarkets, or other public concession booths, where others may hear or see your transaction. Those mini offices are not soundproof – and criminals have been observed using binoculars or shoulder surfing to gather information. Go some place where you have privacy.

Document Disposal
Put papers you no longer need through a cross-cut shredder. These include credit card receipts, other papers with Social Security Numbers (i.e. income reporting forms), financial statements, health benefit statements and loan documents. Do not store these documents intending to shred them at some future time. As soon as you determine the document is no longer needed, shred it!

Document Storage
When storing your tax returns and other sensitive financial documents, use a locking file cabinet or even better, a safe. Make sure you know who else has access to this storage.

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