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Protect yourself from Identity Theft during tax season

Happy Monday, April 17th community members!

Today is Monday and it is also the day before taxes are due. Statistics and research show that more people each year are targeted victims of identity theft and fraud during and after tax season.

There are several reasons why we people are more prone during tax time to be victimized by identity theft scammers. Scammers know that W-2’s with individuals’ social security numbers are being sent in the mail.  It is easy for a scammer to go through a mailbox and try to find information about a person. A social security number, alongside a birthdate, name and address are easily accessible through prepared tax documents.

People who run scams are also becoming incredibly good at imitating police officers, banks and people from the IRS on the phone. Phone scams during tax season are one of the most common ways people become victimized by this crime. Please note that the IRS will never call you over the phone. The IRS communicates via official mailing documents only. Even then, it is recommend to call the IRS personally before giving or sending out any personal information.

The good news is that there are things we can do to try to protect ourselves from having our identity or personal information stolen. This does not mean that if you become a victim of identity theft that you did not protect yourself or that you did something wrong, but there are things you can do to reduce the chance that it will happen to you.

Some things you can do to keep your information safe:

-Attend Fibre Federal Credit Union’s Free Shred Day on April 22nd! Fibre is offering a wonderful opportunity for community members to bring up to three 10-ream paper boxes of documents and have them professionally shredded for free! This will destroy any sensitive information that you no longer need. Some items to consider shredding include: extra copies of W-2’s (always keep at least one at home), medical paperwork you no longer need, any documents offering soft offers of credit or insurance and any documents that have sensitive personal information. Fibre is asking for a suggested donation of non-perishable food items that they will donate to local food banks.

The event will be held behind Fibre’s main branch located at 822 Commerce Ave in Longview on Saturday, April 22, from 10 am to 2 pm.

-Invest in buying a shredder for your home. Shredders can be bought at most office stores such as Office Depot, Office Max, Staples or online through Amazon and can range from $25-300.  Shred documents that have your personal information on them if you do not need them.

-Invest in a lock box for sensitive information. The box should need a key or key code to get into it. It is a safe way to store your Social Security Card, Passport, checkbooks and other sensitive information.

– Invest in buying a locked mailbox that required a key to open it. This will prevent scammers from stealing your mail that has potential sensitive information. Locked mailboxes can often be bought from Home Depot or online.

-Check your credit reports through http://www.annualcreditreport.com once a year for your free credit report. For free reports during the year, sign up for an account through CreditKarma.com and keep track of your credit score, open and closed accounts and hard credit inquiries.  Hard credit inquires is when a company or individual runs for your credit because you have either applied for a mortgage, line of credit or auto loan.  

-Check your bank statements on a regular weekly or monthly basis. Be sure to check for any unwanted or unauthorized charges. If you see, anything that is not authorized be sure to contact your bank immediately.

Lastly, always feel free to contact the Crime Victim Advocacy Program with any questions you might have about Id theft, fraud, how to protect yourself and other steps. The CVAP program is free and confidential and be reached Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm at 360-703-3762.

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