How to monitor and protect your tax information from ID theft

It's essential to make regular checks of your personal data held online

(Image: © Shutterstock)

Identity theft protection (opens in new tab) packages are one of the best ways of helping to fend off attacks from cybercriminals (opens in new tab) and, given their usefulness, are very affordable. And with all of us tending to have much more personal information out there in the online world these days, it’s certainly prudent to have a line of defense in place to safeguard your details.

You might think it’s mainly your social media (opens in new tab) content that presents a possible security threat, and it might be if you give just a little bit too much away on the internet. However, intelligent cybercriminals – and there are, sadly, quite a lot of them – make pretty good sleuths and can often piece together more about your profile than even Facebook (opens in new tab), Instagram (opens in new tab), or Twitter (opens in new tab) might divulge.

In fact, with so many of us having to fill in forms online for all manner of things and our general need to interact digitally, there’s probably a lot more about you out there that criminals can glean if they know where to look. Even your all-important personal tax (opens in new tab) information details and your Social Security number can be stolen if you’re not suitably careful with what and who you share things with online.

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Smarter software

Therefore, investing in identity theft protection is an excellent idea, which can go a long way to preventing ID theft (opens in new tab). Not only that, but many of the packages available for just a few dollars a month can also help you restore your identity if it ends up being left in tatters by fraudsters. If you don't fancy doing chores such as monitoring your credit (opens in new tab), which you should do to check all is good with it, this might also drive your search for the best identity theft protection.

While identity theft protection might not be able to prevent cybercriminals from working behind the scenes to procure your details, these software services can certainly help by alerting you to any unusual behavior. If you've already been a victim of identity theft, or feel that you're at more risk of it than others, then signing up for a package is a good idea. The same goes if you don't want to freeze your credit, which you can do yourself if you contact the three credit bureaus - Equifax (opens in new tab), Experian (opens in new tab), and TransUnion (opens in new tab).


(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Credit freeze

Going down the route of a credit freeze can be a good idea if you want to lock down the data held in your credit report effectively. By doing this, it means nobody can get to see the information contained on the file without obtaining your consent in the first place. This has obvious benefits, especially if you've had something critical like your Social Security number stolen or feel that a fraudster might have obtained it if you've had some unusual correspondence with the IRS (opens in new tab) about your personal tax affairs.

Of course, this involves a little legwork, namely that you need to contact the three bureaus individually. Although the good news is that carrying out a credit freeze won't harm your credit score, it does need to be lifted if you plan on applying for new credit moving forwards. However, this is a minor inconvenience considering just how good a credit freeze can be for securing your personal information. You can carry out a credit freeze by calling Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion or going to their websites and applying online.

Helping hand

Securing a freeze on your credit is one thing, but identity theft (opens in new tab) protection packages do other things too. If you’re looking for a one-stop solution that saves you from performing many of these tasks, they can make a lot of sense. Tracking your credit score (opens in new tab) off your own back is one thing, and it’s relatively easy to do.

Similarly, if you feel you might be the victim of identity theft, it’s also straightforward to contact the federal government, which has a handy website that offers assistance at (opens in new tab). This help hub contains everything you need to know if you’ve become a victim of ID theft (opens in new tab), suspect it might be happening right now, and the steps involved in reporting the crime. The site can also offer help on how to deal with the aftermath. Best of all, the information is free.

Professional protection

Nevertheless, identity theft protection companies are great at doing several things, all rolled into one package. While they might not be able to freeze your credit, they can help monitor your credit files (opens in new tab). If their systems spot something untoward, they can quickly alert you to things like new accounts being opened using your details. That means you can take steps immediately rather than being notified later.

This is also a great help in taking steps to minimize any potential damage occurring, both in terms of damage to your personal information and theft of personal finances (opens in new tab). You might, for example, be able to prevent fraudulent accounts from being set up using your details or stop criminals racking up lots of debts in your name. Adding to the appeal is how identity theft protection companies can help you pick through any damage done, assist you in recovering lost finances and also restore your credit record (opens in new tab).

ID Theft

(Image credit: Google)

Valuable software

While there is a cost involved in signing up for identity theft protection, the potential rewards can justify the outlay. Many identity theft protection packages come with insurance policies of up to $1 million which, should you fall victim to the increasingly common issue of ID theft, could be a beneficial thing to have in place.

On top of that, identity theft protection can offer additional benefits, such as monitoring dark websites (opens in new tab) that might be selling your personal information. Some packages even have anti-virus (opens in new tab), VPN functionality (opens in new tab), and other services that add extra value. So it’s certainly worth shopping around and seeing if there’s a package that fits your personal needs and requirements.

Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!