A RECENT IDENTITY fraud report, found that more than 13 million U.S. adults fell victim to identity fraud in 2013, an increase of a half million from 2012. This is the greatest increase since the study began 11 years ago. The report also found data breaches to be one of the greatest risk factors, as nearly one in three consumers who received data breach notification letters became a victim of identity fraud. This is what happened in the Target matter.  The authors of the report provide these following tips to help you protect their personal information.

Think twice before sharing sensitive information. Exposing common information like birthdates and addresses puts consumers at greater risk. This information is commonly used by financial institutions for identity verification to access accounts. Before providing this information, ask why it’s needed and how it will be protected.

Be social, but be smart. Don’t tell the bad guys that you are headed to Hawaii.  Social networks are a hotbed for identity fraud activity. Take extra caution when deciding whom to connect with and what applications to download users who approve friend requests from strangers and use GPS/Location-based applications are generally more susceptible to fraud.

Take precautions when using mobile devices. Online and mobile banking is great, but ensure that your network connection is secure and your devices have updated security. Never access your banking information through public Wi-Fi. If you use public Wi-Fi consider that someone is watching you.  Use your carrier’s cellular service.  Call your bank; they should be interested in helping you prevent fraud.  If they are not, get a new bank.

Be an active party in detection.  Monitor your credit reports, you can also scan public records and online activity for signs of fraudulent use of your personal information.  This is your issue and you should take ownership of your credit.  If you want, there are plenty of services that you can buy to do this for you.  You need to act quickly. The sooner you learn of the fraud, the sooner recovery can begin, reducing potential losses.  Be alert and report suspicious activity to your financial institutions and law enforcement.

We tend to forget that credit is an amazing tool and helps us daily.  It is your tool and you should look after it.

TAX IDENTITY theft costs America an estimated $3.6 billion a year. Believe it or not, sometimes tax ID theft starts with tax preparers. During the past several years, tax preparers who sold their clients’ personal information to criminals have been prosecuted by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and the Department of Justice, which promotes integrity in our tax system. Tax ID theft could be committed by people in these situations: A tax preparer who discloses client information to help others commit ID Theft, an employee who discloses tax information or participates in the criminal activity, Someone who impersonates  the IRS (using logos, emblems, emails) as part of an identity theft scheme. If you think you have been a victim of tax ID theft, call 1-800-366-4484 or visit www.treasury.gov/tigta to file a report.  The IRS recommends that you contact your financial institution and advise them of the activity.

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