This week I’m focusing on the importance of identity protection during tax season. Earlier posts addressed protecting your mail and avoiding phishing scams. Today’s post focuses on the steps you need to take to protect your information inside your home.
Though it’s hard to face, 31% of identity theft victims who are certain of the perpetrator’s identity say a friend or family member committed the crime. Shocking as it may be, it makes perfect sense because these are the people who have easy access.
Think about all the people who come into your home. It’s a sad fact, but most families include someone with drug, alcohol, gambling or compulsive shopping problems, or a history of illegal actions. Among victims who knew the imposter, 95% said the imposter had these problems.
Now look at the people outside your family. Do you employ a housekeeper, nanny, babysitter or nursing assistant? Will you be employing someone to perform remodeling or repair work inside your home? Do you have regular pest control? How about carpet cleaning, electronics installation or repair?
Any of these workers has access to personal or financial information that isn’t locked in a drawer, lockbox or safe. Electronic files, including those on PDAs, should be password protected. Clean out your wallet. Keep just one credit card or bankcard, and lock up your other credit cards and your checkbooks, Social Security and insurance cards in a safe or lockbox.
Where do you leave your mail? Is it sitting on the desk or on a table just inside the door? How about your paid and unpaid bills? Where are your banking and financial records? What about all the records you’re using to prepare your taxes or organize them for an accountant? Even if they’re in a desk drawer or file cabinet, unless they’re locked up, they’re a potential information source for a thief.
These are perpetual risks to your personal and financial information, but during tax time people are more likely to leave their records out in the open. Don’t add the grief of identity theft to your list of stressors; paying taxes and dealing with the Internal Revenue Service is headache enough.