2015 Tax Season Begins: Identity Theft Scams on the Rise

tax scams

It’s that time of the year again. As we prepare our tax returns, the IRS and other government officials are preparing for an increase in tax refund identity theft. While you’re dreading and worrying about your 1040′s, identity theft scammers are gleefully scheming of ways to steal your private information. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service paid out an estimated $5.2 billion in fraudulent tax refunds.

 

These thieves regularly pretend to be employees of the IRS in an attempt to convince taxpayers that their e-mails you receive are “official” communication solicitations. When you open the email, victims are tricked into revealing personal and financial information. Undoubtedly, the priority of these scammers is to try and get your credit card and bank account numbers, passwords, or your Social Security number. Armed with this type of information, these thieves will use this personal data to steal from your financial accounts, rack up charges on your credit cards, or open new loans under your name.

 

tax identity theft

How do you know if your tax return or records have been affected? Taxpayers only discover they’re victims of tax refund identity theft when they attempt to file a legitimate return. The IRS will reject the tax return and typically sends a notification stating that:

 

  • More than one tax return has already been filed
  • There is a balance due or collection actions have been taken for unfiled tax returns
  • The IRS has realized you’ve received wages from employers that you don’t know

With the prevalence of identity theft scams heading into the 2015 tax filing season, here are some tips taxpayers could follow to protect themselves, including:

 

  • File electronically. The IRS suggests that consumers should file their taxes electronically.
  • Lock your mailbox. Most thieves are also known to target your mailbox. With employers sending sensitive information like W-2s and other personal documents, consumers could lock their mailboxes to prevent thieves from accessing this mail.
  • Sign up for fraud alerts. Placing a fraud alert on your credit report can help prevent your accounts from being used for fraud. Identity theft protection services offer such round-the-clock monitoring.
  • Check your credit report. If you feel that you are a victim of identity theft, review your credit history to determine whether or not an identity thief has used your identity to conduct fraudulent activities.
  • Avoid unsolicited calls. Remember that taxpayers will not be asked to reveal their personal in unsolicited calls. If you’re being solicited for personal information, listen to the alarm bells ringing in your head.

Scam artists are highly creative people. If you have doubts or suspect you’ve become a victim of identity theft, the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is available for people to contact. Pick up the phone and call the agency.

 


 

 

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Re-Gifting as a Growing Identity Theft Threat During the Holidays

regifting

It is believed that as many as 83% of people think re-gifting is an acceptable practice, particularly during the holidays. However, hidden dangers exist especially when some gifts are re-gifted several times over in the same holiday season.

 


 

 
Where can re-gifting lead to trouble? The following 8 ways leave consumers vulnerable to ID Theft outside of credit card or online transactions during the holidays:

 

  • Computers: Digital and financial information left on the computer’s hard drive.
  • Smartphones: Digital and financial information left on an old phone, or apps that were not deleted properly; Even factory resets have been known to leave data on an old smartphone.
  • Tablets: Digital and financial information left on an old phone, or apps that were not deleted properly.
  • Clothes: Credit cards or other personal information cards unknowingly left in the pockets of clothes given as a gift or donated.
  • Furniture: Credit cards, bank statements or other personal information unknowingly left in the drawers of desks or other furniture given as a gift or donated.
  • Purses or wallets: Women and men believe they’re doing the right thing in donating purses and forget to completely clean out their personal items.
  • Gaming Consoles: Re-gifted gaming consoles can sometimes store Netflix or other personal data, without a person remembering to wipe clean.
  • Office Parties: It is believed that 40% of office party gifts are re-gifted; Some of these gifts may also include an old financial footprint that could then be re-gifted again or donated.

Identity theft has received a lot of awareness in the news media over the last few years, especially around the holidays. However, someone’s digital and personal footprint can still be acquired any number of ways outside the cash register or Internet shopping cart.

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Safe Christmas Shopping: Preventing Holiday Identity Theft

 

santa id theftIt’s that time of the year and holiday cheer is all around us and winter is in the air. While we all spend the season with family and friends the, thought of financial and personal safety have taken a backseat on what’s important. We seem to have a sort of blindness to things that can be bad and detrimental to us all.

 

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America and around the world and if you think you’re safe from these crimes think again. Even large companies with intricate security networks are vulnerable, remember Target? Your identity has several vulnerability points that can be penetrated, medical records, DMV records, credit and social security as well.

 

With the rising threat of criminal activity on the rise here are 3 tips on how you can avoid identity theft while on holiday:

 

1. Practice Safe Online Shttps securehopping

Remember to never give out your personal information to an unsolicited email, only shop at trusted and known online stores that you trust. It can be tempting to shop at a new online store to get the holiday bargains. However, if you are not familiar with an online store and you cannot find reliable sources that have done business with this online retailer, then you are better off looking elsewhere. Make sure that the checkout area is secure by locating the closed and locked padlock on your web browser’s window frame. This will help to ensure that your identity is safe from identity thieves due to the encrypted security of the page.

 

Do not shop on a public computer or public wireless network. You cannot verify the security of a public computer or Wi-Fi network. Some may be infected with spyware that records each keystroke entered. So, even if you are using your own laptop on an unsecured public network, you could be giving ID thieves your credit card information.

 

2. Safeguard Your Credit Card & Debit atm skimmerCard Information

This holiday season, whenever you can, shop with cash to reduce the chances of identity theft. If you need to shop with a credit/debit card, only use ATMs you trust. Many identity thieves install card skimmers on ATMs in high-traffic areas to swipe your debit card information. Skimmers are virtually undetectable to the naked eye, so you won’t know you’re a victim of identity theft until you see the fraudulent charges on your statement-and by then it may be too late to recover the charges.

 

Remember that debit cards need daily monitoring. Ideally, you want to use ATMs in bank lobbies or other secure locations with video surveillance. Also, any time you use your ATM card (either to withdrawal cash or to make a purchase) shield your PIN number and card number from others.

 

3. Be Aware of Pick Pockets

Pick pockets are out in full force during the holiday shopping season. Gentlemen, put your wallet in your front pocket and ladies, carry a small purse close to your body (or avoid bringing one altogether). Keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. A stealthy thief only needs a second to brush up against you and disappear into the crowd with your credit cards and IDs. Do not let your guard down: Identity thieves come in all shapes and sizes. Just because someone doesn’t fit your idea of what an ID thief may look like, don’t assume your information is safe.

pick pocket

Don’t become another identity theft victim this holiday shopping season. Be alert and be smart. Take a few extra precautions, shop safely, and enjoy the holiday season!

 


 

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New Insider Club – Special Deals & Promotions Available

Special Announcement - New Insider Club

 

insider-clubProtect Your Bubble has just launched our new Insider Club that gives you access to exclusive promotions, discounts, and coupons! Currently we are offering a special 15% off discount on Identity Theft Protection to Insiders.

 

The Insider Club also allows you access to save quotes and access them at a later date – talk about super convenient. Click here now to sign up for special offers on already affordable protection plans.

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How Secure Is Your Identity? ID Theft [Infographic]

Security breaches have become a common occurrence in today’s society and cases of identity fraud have become too prevalent. From big retailer security breaches (Home Depot, Target, etc) to ATM card skimmers, scammers have adapted to modern technology to obtain and exploit your personal information.  The infographic below breaks down common security breaches and identity theft data so you can stay informed and safe.

 

Identity Theft 2014 Infographic

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