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Filing taxes early may help prevent identity fraud
4HLC N1204P39004C

Dawson County resident Jean Styles didnt think it was possible for her husbands identity to be stolen.

She thought wrong.

Styles said she and her husband have no idea how identity thieves got her husbands information. Don is retired, he pays for everything with cash. ... Its just a mystery to me.

Styles said the first clue his identity had been stolen was when they received a letter from Walmart claiming it needed more information to process Dons credit card application.

We thought to ourselves, what card? Jean Styles said. She said she then told Walmart to cancel the card.

And that was just the beginning. Styles said she then started seeing fraud alerts on Dons credit cards, and more store credit cards started arriving at their home.

If it hadnt been for that fraud alert, I wouldnt have thought anything of it, she said.

Monday morning, Styles said she had a number of certified letters spread across her kitchen table. She was preparing to send a letter to each company, explaining that if charges were applied to the card, they were fraudulent and she and her husband shouldnt be held liable. Ive sent probably a total of 12 certified letters, she said.

Because she watches their credit closely, she was able to stop all the cards before any charges were made.

The Styles also did what the IRS and Better Business Bureau recommend: they filed their taxes early. My accountant had our taxes ready to go as soon as they could file, she said.

BBB recommends filing taxes early before an identity thief does it for you and steals your refund.

To prevent tax-identity theft, the BBB recommends that taxpayers:

not leave W-2 forms in unsecured locations

respond to mail from the IRS as soon as possible, and to never disclose their Social Security numbers over the phone to unsolicited callers.

If you do find your identity has been compromised, contact the IRSs ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

Local Certified Public Accountant Bradley Maple said he sees more than his share of identity theft. Its really a big issue these days, he said.

Maple said he recommends that people do what he did and have their credit reports locked.

You can do it with all three credit-reporting agencies, he said. There is a small fee for the service, but Jean Styles said its worth it. Even though youre not liable, it can hound you from here on, she said.

She advises people to watch their credit closely. People that think it wouldnt happen to them need to think again, she said. Its something that everybody needs to be aware of.