5 ways to prevent identity theft, what to do if you're a victim - WFLA News Channel 8

5 ways to prevent identity theft, what to do if you're a victim

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The Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance is reminding people to safeguard their identities as income tax season approaches.

“As Tampa Bay residents begin to work on their taxes, our task force investigators continue to aggressively investigate cases of identity theft,” said FDLE Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center Special Agent in Charge Rick Ramirez.

“Please help us by reporting suspicious activity and taking appropriate steps if you believe you may be a victim.”

Florida has the nation's highest rate of identity theft, according to federal prosecutor Wilfredo Ferrer. Much of the stolen information is used to commit tax fraud.

The Tampa Bay Identity Theft Alliance offers these five simple steps to protect your identity

  • Do not throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statement without first shredding them.
  • Never give out personal information online simply because someone asks for it.
  • Never give your credit card number or Social Security number over the telephone unless you initiated the call.
  • Reconcile your bank account monthly and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year.

What to do if you are a victim

  • Flag your credit reports. Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  • File a report with the local police.
  • If you received a notice from the IRS, call the number on that notice.
  • Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039.
  • Call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 if you think you are at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet.

If you have information about fraudulent activity, contact Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay at 1-800-873-8477.

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