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Did you know tax time is when many people learn they’re a victim of identity theft? ? It’s only discovered after they file taxes and they get a notification from the IRS telling them they’ve already filed their return (when they know they hadn’t filed yet). Or, because someone has stolen their ID and used it to get hired for a job in which they acquire earnings and the IRS tells them (after they filed taxes) they have unclaimed earnings (when they know they reported all their income). And these people knew about identity theft but believed it would never happen to them. Avoid being the next victim of identity theft with these proactive yet super simple tips.

Skip Scissors – Shred It

Oftentimes, it’s what you throw away that gives thieves the information needed for identity theft. Invest in a paper shredder – the kind with crisscross cuts. Then, instead of tossing documents in the trash from insurance, financial partners, or vendor relationships you want to keep private, and which contain your name, address, and/or any account information, put them through the shredder. Even junk mail tells thieves who lives at that address. Bonus: Most shredders purchased today have the ability to shred credit cards, too.

Nervous you accidentally tossed something you shouldn’t have? Ask your bank, credit union, or insurance company if they offer an identity theft protection program.

Locks Aren’t Just for Doors

Invest in a mailbox with a lock. You can purchase architectural beauties to everyday styles. Most have a section where you can leave mail for pickup and, once the postal carrier slides your mail in the incoming mail slot, a key is needed to retrieve it. Just have a chat with your carrier and ensure they understand that the outgoing mail slot is for picking up mail and indicate where to put incoming mail. Better yet, go digital. It’s far easier to steal someone’s mail than hack secure, online accounts.

End the Junk Mail

Pre-approved credit offers. Ads from your travel agency. Solicitations for business. The more junk you get in your mail, the more likely you are to throw it in the trash can rather than through the shredder. Stop the junk before it gets to your mailbox.

Don’t Click It – Hit Delete

Never click on the link in any email that leads to logging into an account. Cyber criminals create ghost accounts that look just like the real account. When you log in using the hacked link, your credentials are captured and now freely available for use by these thieves. Always use the official domain URL and only log in using a secure (https) domain. This is the best way to ensure you are never tricked into logging into a fake account.

ALERT: The IRS never asks for your personal information by email, text or social media message. If someone contacts you, by one of these methods, claiming to be from the IRS – do not click any links in their message. Do not download attachments and do not respond to them. Instead, forward their message immediately to [email protected]

Get Stingy With Your Dets

Never hesitate to say no to sharing your credit card numbers, social security number, and/or passwords. Progressive companies understand your personal information is the Holy Grail to your identity. They should offer a more secure way to serve you over the phone. Take the time to set up alternative ways to confirm your identity.

Don’t Break Your Brain

There is no way to remember all the logins, passwords, domain URLs associated with the digital world we live in. If you’re using the same credentials on everything, you are overexposed. Invest in a top notch, double encrypted (encrypted in/out) software program for creating complex passwords, and for storing logins and passwords. LastPass is a reputable option.

Don’t become a victim of identity theft by doing nothing. Act to protect yourself and you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ve done your part.