Affinion Security Center Annual Survey Finds That Consumers Are More Worried About Tax and Employment Identity Theft
NORWALK, Conn., March 1 /PRNewswire/ — Affinion Security Center, a leading provider of identity theft protection, detection and resolution services, announced today the results of its annual tax and employment identity theft survey. The survey of 1,000 adults revealed that while consumer concern of tax and employment related identity theft is growing, an overall lack of education and awareness leaves a large percentage of the population at a risk for these growing trends in identity theft.
Taxpayers Remain Vulnerable to Phishing and Vishing Tax Scams and Unscrupulous Tax Preparers
Notwithstanding numerous news reports and widespread public outreach efforts by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to educate the general public on their consumer communication tactics, the majority of taxpayers remain unaware of the methods through which the IRS will contact them regarding their tax filings. When asked, 19 percent of respondents admitted they did not know the ways the IRS contacts taxpayers, while an additional 33 percent responded incorrectly, stating they expected to be contacted by email, phone or mail. Only 48 percent of respondents knew that the primary way the IRS contacts consumers about a tax filing is through the mail, an increase of only 1 percent from last year’s survey.
Consumers’ lack of awareness of IRS communication practices leaves them vulnerable to phishing or vishing (voice phishing using the telephone) scams where thieves pose as IRS agents to gain personal information such as social security or bank account numbers. The IRS has developed a campaign to help consumers identify and report these threats. In the annual Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint report the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that tax or wage related complaints increased to 12.7 percent of all complaints in 2009, the seventh year in a row that this type of fraud has increased.
Affinion’s survey also shows that a growing number of respondents who rely on the services of a tax preparer were concerned about the possibility of becoming victims of identity theft when choosing their preparer. Half of the respondents in 2010 stated that they were somewhat or very concerned, compared to 41 percent in 2009.
“This data confirms that the public awareness of the threat to valuable personal information is growing, however we also have to recognize and address the fact that consumers are slow to the next step – properly educating themselves and taking precautions to avoid becoming a victim,” said Tom Rusin, president of Affinion Security Center. “Our goal in reporting the results of the survey is to help consumers get a full view of the issue, realize that there is more they should do, and help them address that with tips and services that help safeguard and monitor their personal information.”
Employment-Related Identity Theft
Though a separate threat from tax identity theft, it is often around tax filing season when employment-related identity theft is discovered. This crime most often occurs when someone is fraudulently working under another’s social security number to obtain employment and/or to evade taxation. The Affinion Security Center survey found that a growing number of respondents, 69 percent versus 62 percent in the 2009 survey, were at least somewhat concerned that they could become victims of employment-related identity theft.
Affinion Security Center would like to help educate consumers with the following tips on how to prevent identity theft during tax season:
When Preparing Your Return
- Be Aware of Suspicious Emails and Phone Calls Regarding Your Tax Refund, Tax Filing or Any Stimulus Checks - Check the IRS website for tips on how to spot scammers and thieves posing as the IRS and a list of known phishes.
- Be Diligent When Choosing Your Tax Preparers - Ensure that you are working with a credible firm and be extra cautious about new or seasonal offices. Check the IRS website for more tips on how to choose a tax preparer.
- Secure your computer – Many people file taxes electronically. If you are one of those, be sure to install updated firewalls and anti-spyware protection to help keep your personal data out of the hands of thieves.
During and After Filing
- Mail securely - If you file via mail, be sure to mail your return directly from the post office – do not leave your tax return in your unlocked mailbox or at the curb for pickup by your local mail carrier. Your personal information will be vulnerable until it is retrieved by the postal carrier. It is wise to send tax information by first class mail with a tracking number.
- Safeguard Sensitive Information in Home and Outside - Frequently the greatest threat to personal information comes from service providers or in-home workers or acquaintances. Keep paperwork in a safe location. When carrying this information out of the house, be sure to keep it on you or make sure if you leave it in the car, it is not visible.
- Micro-Shred Your Documents – Cross-cut shredders just don’t “cut” it these days. Use a micro-cut shredder for maximum security. The shred size on micro-cut machines is much smaller – documents are literally turned into dust, offering the highest level of security. And since even a seven year- old receipt can be used by a thief, shredding is still one of the simplest ways to prevent identity theft.
Consider Identity Theft Protection Services
For extra identity protection, taxpayers should consider enrolling in an identity theft protection program such as IdentitySecure.
The survey of 1,048 adults was conducted on behalf of Affinion Security Center by Greenfield Online, Inc. in January 2010.
For more information about Affinion Security Center solutions, please visit http://www.affinionsecuritycenter.com
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About Affinion Security Center
Affinion Security Center, a division of Norwalk, Connecticut-based Affinion Group, is a global leader in providing identity protection and data security solutions to corporations and individuals. For over 35 years Affinion Security Center has been powering many of the world’s leading personal data protection and breach resolution solutions offered by local, national and multi-national enterprises in the financial, retail and travel industries. The company currently protects over 10 million subscribers with services including IdentitySecure, PrivacyGuard, PC SafetyPlus and Hotline, and serves enterprise and government agencies with the data breach preparation and response tool, BreachShield. Affinion Security Center is part of the steering committee of the Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel (IDSP) and is a member of the Staples Security Council. For more information please visit www.affinionsecuritycenter.com.
SOURCE Affinion Group