Friday, April 5, 2013

How Do You Protect Your Personal Information? (PSA from ITRC and Fellowes)

The thought of someone stealing your identity is a scary one. When I was younger, I don't remember it being an issue. I am certain that there were still issues with credit cards being stolen and used, but I don't think that someone stealing your identity was something that people really thought about. In fact, when I got my first driver's license, it had your social security number printed on it. I can remember when they started to make it optional - it was up to you to include or not. Thankfully, they have moved away from the practice of even asking if you want it printed. I have also started to see in more recent years, a move by health insurance providers and others to give you a customer ID, instead of using your social security number as your identification number. I was surprised a year or two back when even our local tax office gave us taxpayer IDs, instead of using our social security number like they had always done.

It is great that others are helping to protect our identity, but there are still things that we can do to help protect ourselves, at tax time and all year round.

I know that we try to use strong passwords for all of our online accounts and avoid using the same passwords repeatedly. Because I like to know my password, this is one that I struggled with. Before my husband and I were married, I had several simple and repeated passwords. He taught me to include a mix of upper and lower case, numbers and special characters and still have a password that I can reasonably recall for the most accessed accounts. Plus, he set us up with a password program, there are several password programs out there that can help you track all of your passwords in a secure way.

We also make a habit of monitoring our accounts. The simple process of checking your credit card statements and balancing your check book can go a long way to helping you find inconsistencies that might indicate foul play. With the free credit reports, rather than pulling all three at once, we cycle through each company over the course of a year, so that we are never more than a few months from the most recent review of one of our credit reports.

We make good use of our cross cut shredder. When we clear out our files, we make sure that we shred the old documents and don't just throw them away. Same thing with all of those unsolicited credit offers that we receive in the mail, they go straight through the shredder. We also use our shredder to shred old credit cards, id cards, etc.

Identity Theft Resource Center finds Cases of Identity Theft Increase During Tax Season
Expert Resource Provides Tips to Help Prevent Crime

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a dramatic increase in IRS-related identity theft cases during key tax filing months as compared to previous years. Specifically, the ITRC received almost 77 percent more cases in 2012 than in 2010 and during the three years incidences of identity theft were highest during the key tax filing months of February and March.

“A lot of information changes hands during tax season, which is why we believe we see so many IRS-related identity theft cases this time of year,” said Eva Valasquez, President and CEO of the ITRC. “And although more and more people are now e-filing, we still need to be cautious of how we are protecting information offline.”

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends taking steps to safeguard your entire tax filing process to ensure you’re protected from the crime. From installing a firewall on your computer, to storing important files in a fireproof lockbox and shredding no-longer-needed documents, it’s important to stop identity thieves in their tracks along the way.

“Shredding is one of the most effective ways to destroy personal information,” said Nancy Heaton, Director of Global Marketing, Business Machines, Fellowes, Inc. Fellowes is a corporate sponsor or ITRC and works closely with the organization to provide education about identity theft crimes.



Below are the Identity Theft Resource Center’s identity theft prevention tips for tax season:

Tax Time Tips
• Install a firewall on your computer and change passwords frequently using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
• Select tax preparation software carefully if you intend to do your own tax return
• File at the earliest time possible allowed by the IRS
• Send completed tax returns via a U.S. Postal Office. Mailing from home exposes your tax returns to potential risk
• Do not send sensitive documents/information over unprotected e-mail
• Never file your electronic tax return using an unsecured public WiFi connection. A secure site will have its address begin with https:// rather than http://
• Throughout the year, store sensitive tax season documents in a fireproof, locked cabinet
• Shred no-longer-needed tax documents with a Cross-Cut shredder, such as the Fellowes 63Cb, can destroy paper into hundreds of small, unidentifiable pieces. (you can learn more about Fellowes shredders at www.fellowes.com)

About the Identity Theft Resource Center
Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a nonprofit, nationally respected organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding of identity theft and related issues. The ITRC provides victim and consumer support as well as public education. The ITRC also advises governmental agencies, legislators, law enforcement, and businesses about the evolving and growing problem of identity theft.

About Fellowes, Inc.
Fellowes, Inc. is dedicated to providing identity theft education to consumers and businesses and is a corporate sponsor of the Identity Theft Resource Center. Fellowes, Inc. offers an extensive range of products to equip the workspace, including paper shredders, binders, laminators, desktop accessories and record storage solutions. Founded in 1917 by Harry Fellowes and headquartered in Itasca, Illinois, Fellowes, Inc. employs more than 1,200 people throughout the world and has operations in 15 countries. Fellowes products are now readily available in over 100 countries across the globe. For more information, visit www.fellowes.com.

How do you protect your personal information?

No compensation was received for this post. Fellowes provided information and the contents of the PSA, as well as a 63Cb shredder. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

5 comments:

Tracey said...

A tip for coming up with new passwords that an IT guy once taught me: Pick a song lyric you like and use the first letter of each word, maybe followed by a number for extra security. That way you can remember your password by thinking of the song, and the letters are nonsense to anyone else.

Busy Mom said...

I like that idea!

Lucy said...

That's a great tip. I used to use a combination of my door number, and an acronym of something I liked, but might try the song lyric. Am due to update all my passwords and this post has reminded me to do it. Thanks!

pookiecat123 said...

i think it is scary sometimes to think about identity theft-thanks for the ideas

judy s
pookiecat123 at yahoo dot com

Donal Finn said...

Identity is like a scary dream for me. I am extra aware about this. I have bought a paper shredder Online for this. I don't leave even a blank paper which is not in use. It is necessary for me to continue this habit because I am a professional legal adviser of a company. It is my responsibility to keep the information secure.