Apr 06

Prevent Identity Theft at Tax Season

Identity theft is a serious problem. The Federal Trade Commission says identity theft is its top complaint. Here are tips on preventing identity theft from Mr. "Catch Me If You Can" himself, Frank W. Abagnale:

1. For the IRS’ eyes only: When mailing your taxes, make sure personal documents and enclosed check (if included) are not visible from the outside. Wrap the check in a sheet of paper to disguise it.

2. Secured mailboxes: Always put outgoing tax mail in a secured mailbox, preferably at the post office. Don't put out the mailbox flag - that alerts potential thieves. Avoid putting mail out at night, when pick up is not until the next day.

3. Numbered account: Never give out your Social Security number without clarification. Don't print your number on your checks; it is not required.

4. Choose your preparer wisely: Trust but verify, as a former president once said. Do some background research before committing to your tax professional.

5. Write the check to the Internal Revenue Service, not the Mrs.: When writing a check to the IRS, spell out the words Internal Revenue Service. A check that says IRS can easily be altered to be to MRS. Smith or Jones.


  • Sorry. The URL for the Consumers Union's list of states that have enacted security freeze laws is


    May 08
  • Or stop it before it touches your credit. Consider placing a security freeze on your consumer credit reporting files to make it hard for thieves and scammers to use your information to open new accounts, like new credit cards in your name.

    A security freeze is a powerful identity theft prevention tool for individuals. It enables consumers to take a step that will stop the opening of false new accounts which require a credit check unless the consumer has expressly authorized a potential creditor to check the consumer’s credit report or credit score. Without a credit report or credit score a business usually will not open a new account. As of today, 34 states and the District of Columbia have enacted security freeze laws. Check Consumer Union’s list to see if your state is one of them and on how to place a security freeze.

    A Project of Consumers Union

    May 08
  • I find it ironic when the Federal Government talks about Identity theft. The Federal Government is the worst offender of requiring SS# on Medicare documents and many other official forms. If you go into SEC documents, the SS# of any officer of a company (that has exercised stock options) is available on line on the cover sheet of the documents.

    Apr 10
  • What a phatic little article--not only ineffective and incomplete, but largely irrelevant.

    1. The check will be almost certainly be wrapped in a tax form (i.e., sheet of paper). Beyond that, the big IRS address / pre-printed envelope is a dead giveaway. The SSN box on the tax form is pretty clear, and there's no getting around it. And if your CPA is a thief, you've got bigger worries than a compromised SSN.

    2. If you're really concerned about tax-form security, don't send your forms through snail mail. Use Teletax, accounting software, or a secure online service.

    3. Real risk is signing restaurant receipts with your full credit card number/exp. date on them. It's allowing banks and insurance companies to use your SSN as a unique identifier. It's giving sensitive information to callers, clicking on phishing ads, failing to retrieve the free credit reports you're entitled to under the FCRA, failing to check that your CPA is adequately protecting his paper and electronic files. Fake risk (read: waste of time and dangerous distraction) is ID thieves skulking around Suburbia, harvesting IRS envelopes from mailboxes in the dead of night.

    Apr 07