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Expert Tips to Prevent Identity Theft During Tax Season

Fellowes ShredderDid you know that the tax season not only brings with it a rise in blood pressure and stress but also a rise in identity theft?

It’s true – the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), says that IRS-related identity theft has increased by almost 77 percent during the past two tax seasons and the FTC reported a 3% increase of ID theft complaints in the past year (43% of which were tax or wage related fraud.)

Identity theft and fraud are a huge problem. In February I shared a post on how my own parents were the target of a phone-fraud scheme. While seniors seem to be a big target for fraudsters and scams, anyone can fall victim to identity theft.

“A lot of information changes hands during tax season, which is why we believe we see so many IRS-related identity theft cases this time of year,” said Eva Valasquez, President and CEO of the ITRC. “And although more and more people are now e-filing, we still need to be cautious of how we are protecting information offline.”

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends taking steps to safeguard your entire tax filing process to ensure you’re protected from the crime. From installing a firewall on your computer, to storing important files in a fireproof lockbox and shredding no-longer-needed documents, it’s important to stop identity thieves in their tracks along the way.

“Shredding is one of the most effective ways to destroy personal information,” said Nancy Heaton, Director of Global Marketing, Business Machines, Fellowes, Inc. Fellowes is a corporate sponsor or ITRC and works closely with the organization to provide education about identity theft crimes. “A Cross-Cut shredder, like Fellowes’ 73Ci ensures your tax-related documents can’t be pieced back together.”

Below are the Identity Theft Resource Center’s identity theft prevention tips for tax season:

– Install a firewall on your computer and change passwords frequently using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
– Select tax preparation software carefully if you intend to do your own tax return
– File at the earliest time possible allowed by the IRS/CRA
– Send completed tax returns via a U.S. Postal Office. Mailing from home exposes your tax returns to potential risk
– Do not send sensitive documents/information over unprotected e-mail
– Never file your electronic tax return using an unsecured public WiFi connection. A secure site will have its address begin with https:// rather than http://
– Throughout the year, store sensitive tax season documents in a fireproof, locked cabinet
– Shred no-longer-needed tax documents with a Cross-Cut shredder

Using a shredder is important in any household and especially in households like mine where you also have an office and home-based business.  When in doubt whether you should chuck it or shred it – shred it!!!  Even if you think it’s pointless just because it only has a little personal info on it (just your address, or just your purchase order, for example) it’s far easier to shred it than deal with the aftermath of identity theft.

I have been using my new Fellowes 63Cb Powershred Shredder in my home-office and have been happy with it thus far.

Features include:
o Fellowes’ Jam BlockerTM technology blocks jams before they start
o SafeSense® technology automatically stops shredding when hands touch the paper opening
o Energy Savings System maximizes shredder energy savings 100% of the time – both in use and out of use
o Heavy-duty Cross-Cut blades destroy a single sheet of paper into 302 particles, making it nearly impossible to piece back together

302 particles! I love it!  I keep the shredder in my office, which is generally off-limits to the kids, but as we know kids seem to find a way into places they are not supposed to be!  Because of this, the SafeSense technology is really important to me.

In the US you can find the Fellowes 63Cb Powershred Shredder at www.Amazon.com, www.OfficeDepot.com and www.OfficeMax.com for a suggested retail price of $149.99.  In Canada, you can find it at Costco (out of stock) and Future Shop for $129.98 currently.

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One of my readers is going to win a Fellowes 63Cb Powershred Shredder to help keep their identity and personal info safe!  To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter form below.
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