Identity theft is a serious concern in today’s electronics driven world. About 9.9 million people each year—19 people every minute—become victims of identity theft. 

In the past year two California tax preparation businesses owned by Nancy L. Hilton were charged with filing invalid tax returns using stolen identities. Hilton and her associates also inflated the actual amount of the individuals’ incomes, number of dependents, and self-employment-related expenses in other cases. The IRS lost about $1.35 million dollars in these fraudulent tax returns. Here are several ways an individual can guard personal information from identity thieves like Nancy L. Hilton.

Identity Theft

Protect Your Social Security Numbers, PINs, Passwords and Account Numbers

Do not store SSNs, PINs or passwords in a wallet or purse. If these items are ever stolen the thief can open accounts in the person’s name and access all the necessary financial information. If it is ever necessary to give out personal information be sure to know the identity of the requester.

The victims of the Hilton identity scam couldn’t have known what was happening with their SSNs and PINS. Unfortunately, Hilton gained access to their information either by taking them on as clients or through other means. If you discover any suspicious activity taking place with someone you work with financially, consider finding a new accountant or hiring a private investigator to track your asset’s dealings.

Protect Documents with Sensitive Information

As a tax return preparer Hilton seemed trustworthy to safeguard people’s personal and financial information. Instead she used her knowledge of the tax system and her access to previous client’s sensitive information to steal identities.

Be very careful when handing out this information to anyone you don’t completely trust. Before working with an accountant or tax preparer, consider calling one of their other clients for a reference. If there is any history of criminal action at the business, seek a tax preparer elsewhere.

Know When to Act

The members of the Hilton scheme were caught, but thousands of identity thefts go unpunished every year.  If you have had your identity stolen consult a private investigation expert right away. Identity thieves move fast to cover up their tracks and you have no time to waste catching them. An investigation expert can help you repair your identity theft by creating an identity theft report and analyzing the damage.

The identity of an individual is one of his or her most important possessions. If it is stolen it can be difficult to get it back again without cost.

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Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is a private investigator and founder of Tristar Investigation, California’s premiere detective agency. Bruce is also a media commentator for the investigation industry, featured in the New York Times, CNN, History Channel, MSNBC, Los Angeles Times and many more. You can find him on Google+ LinkedIn and YouTube.