Tax season is quickly approaching. For most of your clients and prospects, that means dealing with the headache of collecting and organizing documents, crunching numbers and facing the often painful reality of seeing what they've paid – or will have to pay Uncle Sam.
Tax time takes on a different meaning to thieves. Helping your clients and prospects by showing them ways protect their identity during tax time will help cement your relationship and role as a trusted advisor!
Most of the documents needed for taxes are very revealing. They contain client’s name, address, credit account information and most importantly, their Social Security number (SSN). For the identity thief, it means that there is a treasure chest of information to be targeted in the next two months. This provides you, as a trusted advisor, with a reason to meet with your clients and prospects to share the following ID Theft prevention checklist – ways help prevent their personal identifying information out of the hands of would-be thieves.
Feel free to use the copy below when meeting with a client or prospect
ID THEFT PREVENTION CHECKLIST
- Document disposal: Once you have gathered the receipts, paperwork and the various forms you need to calculate your taxes, make sure that any papers you no longer need go through a good, cross-cut shredder. Papers with credit card account numbers, Social Security numbers (health benefit payment forms), loan papers, etc., all have information that a thief can convert into a new credit account in your name. This tip also applies to all the papers you decide to dispose of from previous years. Just because a receipt is 7-years old does not mean it cannot be used to your detriment.
- Computer Security: Many of us do our taxes or prepare our information for tax accountants on our computers. If your computer links to the Internet it must have firewall software to protect it from invasion.
- Mail Theft Prevention Tip: Since these tax forms have a lot of information on them, the best advice is to take the forms directly to the post office, dropping them in a box INSIDE the post office. It is best to not drop them in an outside box after last pick-up of the day since that gives a thief more opportunity to steal the mail. Do not leave them in the outgoing box at work, drop them at the corner blue box or leave them in an unlocked box for pickup.
- Social Security Number on the Check: Should I or shouldn't I? Since your check goes through so many hands, it is best not to print your entire SSN on the face of the check. The last 4 numbers should suffice if you decide to put any part of the number at all.
- Tax Preparers: Be selective about who works on your taxes. Check out companies with the Better Business Bureau, especially if they are new or seasonal offices. The first thing you should do is look around. Do you see other people’s papers sitting around? Ask questions of the managers. How will your information be stored? What type of computer security do they use? Has the person who will be working on your taxes gone through a thorough background screening?