The IRS reports that identity theft is among the fastest growing crimes in the country. Between 2011 and 2012, they more than doubled their number of employees dedicated to identity theft cases. Considering how much is done online today—from registering for events to buying just about anything, it’s not too hard to believe. You’ve probably entered your bank account, social security, and credit card numbers online plenty of times and not thought much of it. However, given the serious threat of identity theft, it’s important to be very careful when and where you use your personal information online. Tax season, which runs from January 1st to April 15th, is a particularly risky time for identity theft. With everyone filing their tax returns, documents like W-2 forms and bank statements are being submitted online and mailed out like clockwork. That’s a lot of important financial information circulating at one time. Identity thieves know this, and want to work it to their advantage. So what can you do to keep your information safe as a college student?
The IRS recommends the following tips to help protect yourself from identity theft:
• Don’t carry your Social Security card or any documents that include your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
• Don’t give a business your SSN or ITIN just because they ask. Give it only when required.
• Protect your financial information.
• Check your credit report every 12 months.
• Secure personal information in your home.
• Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.
• Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
Make sure to keep your tax documents private, and to file your taxes using only trusted programs. You want to get a nice check from your tax returns, not get stolen from! Just remember to be smart and be careful this tax season.
If you think you’re at risk for identity theft, or you just want better peace of mind, insurance can be a smart investment to make. GradGuard’s Student Protection Plan offers Identity Theft and Resolution Services for college students. With this plan, you’re able register your personal information so that you’ll be alerted if any of that information is sold or traded by online thieves. You can include up to 10 debit and credit cards, so all your accounts will be looked after. For more information on GradGuard’s Student Protection Plan, click here.
Another option is IdentitySecure, a preferred partner of GradGuard, which offers up to $10,000 in identity theft insurance. It includes daily credit monitoring, so that if anything looks fishy with your accounts, you’ll be notified. For more information about IdentitySecure, click here.
And for more information about tax returns and identity theft, see this webpage from the IRS titled “Tips for Taxpayers, Victims about Identity Theft and Tax Returns.”
Happy filing, and may your tax returns be plentiful!