When you get a letter from the IRS – it’s either really great news, like your refund has arrived – or it’s really bad news, like your identity has been stolen. Unfortunately – my letter informed me of the latter.
How Could This Happen?
The truth is – it could happen to anyone. My wallet wasn’t stolen but somehow my information got leaked. Someone could have phished my information off the Internet, or picked it out of my garbage — the possibilities are endless.
So this is how I spent most of my Saturday:
- Getting an updated credit report to make sure there was no suspicious activity
- Purchasing a monitoring system so I will be notified if anyone tries to open a line of credit in my name
- Notifying the Federal Trade Commission
- Calling and waiting on hold for every credit card, bank account and financial company I’ve ever used to notify them that my information has been compromised
I still need to contact one more financial institution and call the IRS when their offices reopen. Not my idea of fun. But I did it – and surprisingly was very “zen” about the whole experience. I mean really, what can I do about it? Getting upset now isn’t going to help. So if this happens to you – my advice is to be patient and stay calm. These calls take a long time to do but it’s worth it.
How to Avoid Identity Theft
Here are some ways to avoid getting your identity stolen from the FTC:
- Don’t carry your social security card with you
- Be careful with your mail and shred personal documents before putting them in the trash
- Be aware of the information you share over the Internet
- Use intricate passwords on the Internet (try making your password an actually goal that you have and adding some numbers and uppercase letters to it. This way you’ll never forget it and be motivated to reach the goal each time you type it!)
- Don’t give out important information over the phone, Internet or in person unless you know the person is a trusted source
- Safeguard your wallet and purse wherever you go
- Keep important information in a safe place at home if you have repair people, cleaning staff or childcare support coming in and out on a regular basis