Identity theft is a crime affecting all age groups; however, it impacts older Americans in particular. Given that seniors in Nevada represent 13 percent of our state’s population, this is of great concern to me. Impersonating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during tax season has become one of the largest, most pervasive scams in recent history, targeting thousands of Americans across the country and defrauding these victims of more than $15.5 million dollars to date.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the number one consumer complaint for Nevadans is imposter scams. As of February 2014, taxpayers in Nevada lost nearly $300,000 to the IRS impersonation scam.
As a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, I am acutely aware of issues affecting older Americans in Nevada. Recently, I attended a hearing the Committee held to examine identity thefts where scam artists posing as IRS employees dupe unsuspecting Americans into releasing important personal data. These scam artists then used this data to illegally file false tax returns and collect refunds and other benefits associated with the false returns.
If you’re like me, you’ve seen this firsthand. My dad and my adult daughter were both targeted by fraudsters over the telephone earlier this year. Now, my Dad and my daughter both told me the pitch given was pretty poor and easy to see through. But that is not always the case. There are thousands of individuals who have been victimized by this kind of fraud, and I want to discuss ways to prevent these scams in Nevada and across the country.
Here’s what you can do to prevent being a victim of identity theft.
- Only carry essential documents with you. That means do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport outside of home.
- Be careful when giving out personal information over the phone. Identity thieves may call, posing as banks or government agencies. To prevent identity theft, do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. To prevent identity theft, shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information before throwing it away.
- Protect your Social Security Number (SSN). To prevent identity theft, make sure your bank does not print your SSN on your personal checks.
- Keep a list of account numbers, expiration dates, and telephone numbers filed away. If your wallet is stolen, being able to quickly alert your creditors is essential to prevent identity theft.
If any of your personal information has been compromised, particularly your SSN, you should follow the below steps.
- File a police report.
- File an FTC complaint.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your account:
Equifax: www.Equifax.com or (800) 525-6285
Experian: www.Experian.com or (888) 397-3742
TransUnion: www.TransUnion.com or (800) 680-7289
- Close any financial accounts opened without your permission.
As always, please feel free to call my Las Vegas office at (702) 388-6605 if you think your personal information has been compromised. +