Earlier this week burglars broke into the office of Liberty Tax in Highland, California and stole paper customer files as well as computers used in the office. Liberty Tax is a nationally franchised tax preparation organization. According to the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department, the thieves obtained the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of “a large number of clients” as well as credit card information of some clients. Obviously this puts the affected customers in great danger of identity theft.
Affected Liberty Tax customers should immediately put a credit freeze on their credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus if they do not already have credit freezes in place. You can find information about how to put credit freezes on your credit reports by going to the archives of Scamicide. Accountants and tax preparers will, by the nature of their business have much sensitive personal information of their clients, which means that it is incumbent upon all of us who use accountants or tax preparers to inquire about what they do to protect the security of physical documents and computerized data. All sensitive electronic data should be encrypted. In addition, many identity thieves pose as tax preparers in order to gain access to personal information of their victims for purposes of identity theft. Before you choose a tax preparer you should investigate him or her thoroughly. Make sure they are registered with the IRS and look into whether they have had any charges or disciplinary actions taken against them.