A girl walks into an accounting office, sits down with her accountant and shows him her W2 and tells him what her write-offs are. Accountant says great, you’ll be getting a refund of $X. She pays her accountant and leaves a happy camper not-so-secretly planning what to do with her impending funds. Fast forward to 6PM that same day and the girl gets a call from her accountant’s wife delivering the awful truth. The girl’s identity had been stolen, her social security number had already been used to file taxes for 2012. What?! She thought to herself and all of the Twittersphere. This couldn’t happen to me! This was a rare occurrence that only happened to some people, but not me.
Well folks, it happened to me and it was not pretty. In fact, it’s still not even resolved yet and my poor, much-needed refund is still in limbo while my identity thief remains out there probably tap-dancing and celebrating his/her temporary victory. I have no idea how it happened or when, but it did and that’s that. This brings us to my point, while this happened to me and is also happening to a boat-load of other unsuspecting people in the US, I will share what I’ve learned from the process so hopefully you can avoid this mess yourself, or at least know what steps to take should it unfortunately occur.
Things to avoid:
- Losing your wallet.
- Buying anything from a site that does not start with https: (the S stands for secured)
- Using your debit card at a gas station. Apparently these criminals know how to use your info to fill up even after you’ve left.
- Using your debit card at mom and pop shops. Unfortunately, to make extra bucks, these people sell the info from their card reading machines to the folks that then steal your identity, all by hooking up the card reader to a computer and downloading the history.
- Using the same password for everything, and not changing it regularly.
It was stolen – next steps:
- Police Report – Call them immediately, they are your friends and they even make house calls, or in my case came to my office. You will need a copy of this report for several of the other items listed below.
- Credit Agencies – Set a 90-day fraud alert for yourself on each site stat. You’ll need to see a history of your credit to know how long ago your identity was stolen, as well as what may have been purchased, etc. Print them for your records. You may need to use these as proof eventually.
- IRS.gov Affidavit #14039 – Fill this bad boy out with proof of ID and send as certified mail with return receipt requested ASAP to the IRS. It doesn’t hurt to throw in a copy of the police report, as well as any info you may have received from your accountant in regards to your social security number being compromised.
- Social Security Administration – Call them at (800) 772-1213 and tell them what happened and how you found out.
- Federal Trade Commission – Call them at (877) 438-4338 and tell them your story too. These folks will generate a version of the IRS affidavit that you could use with all of your other proof to show you’re who you say you are, what happened, and it’s an official document.
- Passwords – Change ’em all, especially your banking passwords and security questions. You never know if someone hacked your email, saw a receipt or message from your bank and put together the answers to any personal questions from your inbox or outbox.
The moral of the story is this, cash is king. But if you’re like me, and rarely have cash on you, then you are definitely susceptible to identity theft in any capacity. So be careful. The good news is although it’s a major speed bump and pain in the ass, if you use all of the steps mentioned here, this too shall pass and it will all work out in the end. Identity in tact.