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Simple Precautions Help Avoid Identity Theft During Tax Season
ARA -- Identity theft affected 10 million Americans last year, an increase of 22 percent from the previous year, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. Those numbers make identity theft one of the nation's fastest growing crimes.

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Although it's important to protect your identity throughout the year, tax season is one time that identity thieves are out in full force, looking to take advantage of Americans not safeguarding their personal information. And even as the IRS believes that online tax filing will increase 20 percent in 2010, Americans still collect paperwork during the year that contains personal information that can be the equivalent to gold for identity thieves.

"Seasoned identity thieves are on the prowl during tax season and looking for unassuming victims," says Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center. "Whether filing online or through regular mail, everyone still needs to be aware of safe filing practices and the procedures for protecting against identity theft this time of year."

One important step to protect confidential information is to properly store and destroy all paper documents containing sensitive information that you no longer need. Shredding is the single most effective way to ensure that this type of paperwork is destroyed into unidentifiable pieces.

By using a cross-cut shredder such as Fellowes PS-79Ci, paper documents are nearly impossible to piece back together. The PS-79Ci also features Fellowes' Jam Proof technology, which calculates the amount of paper being fed into the shredder and stops a paper jam before it occurs.

"Knowing and understanding the right procedures to protect yourself during tax season is the most important step to safeguarding confidential information this time of year," says Nancy Heaton, senior global marketing manager at Fellowes, Inc., the leading shredder manufacturer. "Shredding all sensitive paperwork you no longer need is an easy and effective way to ensure that your personal information remains just that."

In addition to shredding, the following tax filing tips will help ensure that your confidential information is protected:

Filing taxes online:

-- Choose a tax filing service you are familiar with. The IRS provides a list of approved companies at www.irs.gov/efile.

-- Make sure personal computers are protected with updated firewall and secure software systems, which contain antivirus and anti-spyware programs.

-- If you are storing important tax-related documents on your computer, change your passwords frequently between December and April.

-- Ensure that every Web site you are using during tax filing is encrypted to protect personal information when transmitted.

-- Shred any backup documents once you've filed your taxes online.

Filing taxes by mail:

-- Regularly check the mailbox for W-2 forms and other documents containing sensitive information that arrive by mail. If you don't receive these documents by Feb. 15, contact the IRS for assistance at (800) 829-1040 as missing forms may be an indication that an identity thief went through your mail.

-- Send completed tax returns from a locked mailbox or the post office. If mailing from home, do not put the mailbox flag up. This only alerts identity thieves that there may be an outgoing check in the mail.

-- Make sure tax forms, backup documents and enclosed checks are not visible from the outside. Try wrapping your forms in an extra sheet of paper to disguise the contents of the envelope.

-- Keep tax paperwork and other documents in a safe and accessible place, such as a fireproof box in your home.

For additional identity theft prevention tips and information on how long to keep financial records, visit www.fellowes.com or check with your tax professional.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

© 2012 ARAContent

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal or medical professional.

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