For years, I’ve been filing my annual income taxes online – without any issue. Since my taxes are relatively easy to prepare, tax filing sites are a major convenience. Prior year information is kept available, making the current year a breeze to complete. Once finished, all it takes is a few clicks to send directly to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and your respective state. No printing pages of paper. No trips to the post office. And best of all, no worries that something might have gone terribly wrong. Or so I thought.
Two years ago, upon submitting electronically to the IRS, I received a rather odd email saying the forms had been rejected. Thinking I clicked something I shouldn’t have, I went back in and repeated the process – to no avail. After several additional attempts, I was forced to call the IRS. Thankfully, the email included an error code.
Naturally, I was on hold for what seemed like an eternity, only to get cut off when first reaching a rep and having to call back a second time, waiting another 30 minutes or so. Once I reached a rep, I gave them all the required info. I was immediately informed that the error code meant that I had already filed for the year and would have to send an amended tax return via regular mail. Wait. What? Who filed? Red flags went up like the American Revolution.
An investigation revealed that a month earlier someone in Florida had used my social security number to file a bogus tax return. And they received a refund! My identity had been stolen! It was the most gut wrenching, horrible feeling. I felt violated and was completely traumatized. The IRS was actually wonderful and over the next several months, they helped me file a return and set up a personal identification code (PIN) that I now use for all future filings. Although I have no idea how these criminals obtained my info, the IRS informed me that the site I had been using to electronically file my returns lacked several critical safety features and gave me the names of the safest sites to use.
In addition to the IRS PIN, my husband and I canceled all of our cards, accounts and policies and set up new ones. It took weeks of work and hours of wasted time to make sure that all of the old stuff was null and void. It was stressful and I was angry; angry that I could be taken advantage of without even knowing. I had no idea that someone had stolen and used my personal information. An entire month passed before there was any real indication.
This traumatic event brought back memories of a service that I had heard about on TV. It’s called LifeLock, which offers identity theft protection services. Although there is no surefire way to prevent all forms of identity theft, LifeLock is a strong defense in keeping your information safe. When I originally learned about the product, I scoffed, believing “it could never happen to me.” Now that it has, I encourage you to be proactive and take steps to prevent your information from being at risk. LifeLock is a great first step. Learn more about it here:
You only have one identity. Protect it.
Disclosure: Through MommiFried, I aim to provide unbiased editorials. However, I wish to disclose that from time to time I may receive free products or other compensation from companies for blogger reviews.