What is Identity Theft?
It is a crime where a thief steals your personal information to commit fraud. The thief can use this information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or obtain medical services in your name. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.
Avoiding Identity Theft
- Proactively freeze your credit to block credit inquires by contacting each of the three major credit bureaus:
- Do not respond to unsolicited requests for personal information by phone, mail or online.
- Use a password manager to generate strong and unique passwords for each of your online accounts.
- On each of the computers you use, apply software updates regularly, encrypt, and install malware protection software. See the Stanford Minimum Security Standards for more information.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards to prevent dumpster divers from obtaining your personal information.
- Collect U.S. Mail promptly. Ask the Post Office to put your mail on hold when you are on vacation.
- Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by email, nor any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels, to request personal or financial information.
- Refer to the following sites for additional information, alerts, and guidance on identity theft:
Detecting Identity Theft
- Review the transactions in your monthly financial statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Review your credit report annually. A free annual credit report can be requested at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
- Receiving an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notice via US Postal Mail that states:
- More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
- You owe additional tax, had a tax refund offset, or have collection actions against you for a year and you did not file a tax return.
- You received wages from an employer unknown to you.
Handling Identity Theft
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Hotline: 1-877-438-4338
- Contact one of the three major credit agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
- Contact your financial institutions and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
- If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, take the following additional steps:
- If you received an IRS notice, independently verify the legitimacy and contact information before responding.
- Complete the Identity Theft Affidavit, IRS Form 14039, and mail or fax it according to the instructions.
- Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.