The New Year is the perfect time to start making identity protection a habit. Here are three ways you can start improving the way you safeguard your identity:
Monitor your credit report. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there is only one authorized source for free credit reports, and that’s AnnualCreditReport.com. You can reach them via their website or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
There’s something to remember about your credit reports, though. You’re entitled to one free copy every twelve months from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, also known as the Big Three of credit reporting. So you could order just one this month, say, from Experian. In a few months, order one from Equifax. Finally, request one from TransUnion later on. This will give you an ongoing look at your credit report so you can stay on top of any shady activity.
File your taxes early. Filing your tax return as early as possible can help prevent identity theft. This way, you can make sure your legitimate filing gets in before any thief has the chance to submit a fraudulent one. According to the IRS, frauds typically send in fake tax filings early in the year to get a taxpayers’ refund before they have the chance to. That’s why the IRS suggests filing earlier, as it lessens your chance of being victimized.
The IRS also recommends being vigilant in protecting your Social Security Number and computers to bolster this effort. If you receive a notice from the IRS that more than one tax return has been filed under your SSN, that you owe additional tax or refund offset for year that you didn’t file a return or if records indicate an employer you’ve never worked for or heard of, these are signs that a thief has compromised your identity through tax fraud.
Shred all documents. With all the digital resources out there, it sounds so outdated, but identity thieves still rifle through trash cans to retrieve documents containing sensitive personal information, giving them the access to compromise your identity. To prevent this, you should resolve to shred all documents containing any information you wouldn’t want in the hands of a thief, like all those receipts you have from your holiday shopping. You can start your shredding process by going through all old mail, bank account statements and bills. Consider investing in a cross-cut shredder, which ensures that a shredded document can never be put back together.