Mar 03, 2011 Brian Bradley
Though reports of individual cases of identity theft are declining, more identity thieves are stealing tax returns, according to a Scripps Howard News Service investigation. In an analysis of more than 1.4 million ID theft records held by the Federal Trade Commission from the last five years, the news service found a sharp drop - 20.2 percent - in consumer complaints since 2008. However, stolen tax return-related ID theft went from 11,010 complaints in 2005 to 33,774 in 2009. The report also discovered a rise in the numbers of thieves who use a stolen identity to start up electric or gas service in their homes. When filing tax returns, consumers and business owners supply a lot of valuable information that ID thieves can use to file fraudulent tax returns or set up utility or credit card accounts. The fraudsters can use stolen Social Security numbers to file the return before the victim does, inflate claims for dependents and then receive the refund, according to Credit FYI.com. Continuously monitoring your credit and medical information is a solid defense against identity theft. Conduct an annual credit check, review your business' bank account history and shred any sensitive documents before throwing them out to prevent a potential ID thief from pilfering private information.