Put the freeze on your info
Not too many years ago, the only people worrying about protecting their identities were Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Now it’s a concern for everyone.
Unfortunately, identity theft is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identity stolen each year. Thieves are very busy opening new credit cards, renting homes, accessing medical services, starting criminal records (in your name), and much more — including tax fraud.
The schemes vary, but crooks are able to direct other people’s refunds to their own bank accounts while some unscrupulous tax preparers inflate expenses or withholding and under report income and then pocket the excessive refund. The IRS and Social Security Administration, slow to untangle the labyrinth of their own laws and procedures, seem to play right into the hands of savvy cyber criminals.
One way you can take concrete action to help prevent identity theft is to put a freeze on your credit files. A frozen file will not be shared with potential creditors. This makes starting new credit cards and accounts nearly impossible. You can also thaw your files if you wish to apply for credit or want an employer to do a background check.
The California Office of Privacy Protection (yes, there is such a thing), provides detailed instructions on how to freeze (and unfreeze) your credit files at the following link http://www.privacy.ca.gov/consumers/cis10english.pdf