Tax Tips (and other stuff): Are you safe from ID theft? | NevadaAppeal.com

Tax Tips (and other stuff): Are you safe from ID theft?

Kelly J. Bullis
For the NEvada Appeal

Sometimes I find myself apathetic toward identity theft. Then I get a jolt. Like guzzling a gallon of the strongest coffee at the San Rafael Coffee Shop. Once my ID has been stolen, the thieves can use it over and over as often as they wish. Oh bother.

Every public data base out there is loaded with private information. A few years ago, one could expect to hear of about 500 attacks using a computer virus or other “malware.” Today, it is reported that more than 63,000 such attacks occur every month. These bad guys are attacking banks, governments, etc.

This is a world-wide problem. In fact most of the bad guys out there are located outside of the U.S. It’s not just Windows computers that are targeted. Apple products (I-Phones, I-Pads, etc.) are also high on their list. (That is how I got hit. They cracked into my son’s I-Pad. Ouch.)

Do you do any social networking? Facebook is a major target of the bad guys. Do you use your computer to do online banking? Imagine how easy it would be to take your money if the bad guys got your passwords?

Even if you never own a computer nor use a cell phone (if that’s true, you would be considered a very rare person indeed), you are at just as much a risk of being hurt by these bad guys as the rest of us. Do you have grandkids? What would you do if one of them supposedly called you from a jail in Canada or Mexico, desperately needing cash to post bail? Truth is, they were not in jail, and it wasn’t really them calling. I have a friend who fell for this twice.

What if the IRS called and told you that you owed back taxes and they were about to seize your bank account unless you made a substantial payment by credit card immediately? This one gets a lot of older folks who live in absolute fear of the IRS. Another spin on this is to get an email from the IRS asking for something similar, or even just your Social Security number to verify the filing of your tax return.

If you are a business, have you fully checked out your janitor? One of their favorite methods used to break into your computer system is to get your password by paying your janitor to temporarily install a “key logger” on one of your computers, then retrieving it a week or so later. (It logs every keystroke, including passwords.)

Your best defense is to have an independent ID Theft monitoring service working in the background to alert you of any unusual or suspicious activity. That is what I use and it saved me thousands of dollars that could have been taken out of my bank accounts recently. Most cost a small fee in the range of $20-$30 a month. My recommendation, get signed up ASAP.

“Have you heard?” Maxine says, “the economy is so bad, I got a pre-declined credit card in the mail!”

• Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459.