identity theft,Lifelock

IRS employee Domeen Flowers allegedly used her former employer’s database to steal taxpayers’ identities. With the stolen personal information, Flowers applied for credit cards. This isn’t a Sci-Fi movie with espionage gadgets and hacking codes, it’s a reality, albeit a nightmarish one.

Initially hired in 2007 as a mail-room clerk in Philadelphia, Flowers was eventually transferred to Maitland, Fla. Charges stem from identity thefts in both cities. While authorities are unsure how many identities she allegedly stole, the indictment lists her former landlord as one victim. Flowers faces 46 years in prison in addition to a hefty $1.25 million fine.

Meanwhile, the IRS arrested 105 people in January for tax-related identity theft. With more than 2.2 million fraudulent tax returns filed last year, the cost exceeds $2 billion. Because of this fraud, consumers who file legitimate claims may face delays in receiving their tax refunds. Lifelock and the following indicators below can let you know if you’re the victim of identity theft.

  • Your credit card is declined unexpectedly.
  • Mystery charges appear on your credit or debit card statement.
  • You receive packages you did not order.
  • Debt collectors call about unfamiliar debts.
  • Monthly bills do not arrive in the mail.
  • Friends receive email from your address, but you didn’t send the emails.
  • Your credit score decreases unexpectedly.
  • Personal information on your credit report is wrong.

How do you Prevent Identity Theft?

If you are the victim of identity theft, understand that thieves easily find your personal information. Everywhere you look, someone wants your personal data. In fact, you can’t apply for life insurance, a mortgage or sometimes a job unless you provide personal details. Before sharing your social security number, birth date and other identifiable information, consider how the data will be used.

Guest post by Lauren Micelli

Lauren hopes to teach elementary school in Asia. Until then, she loves writing about travel while studying for her ESL license.