Protecting your identity during tax season

(WWLP) – In the past two months, there have been three data breaches at major retailers. Tax identity theft is on the rise too.

The best advice is to be proactive when it comes to protecting your identity and your social security number. More Americans are becoming victims of identity theft. Target and Neiman Marcus were recently hacked. Just this weekend, there was another data breach at Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores.

“If it’s so easy to do it, it doesn’t mean that another store won’t have the same problem. It’s like a domino effect, so I’d be very careful about that,” said Sophia Lozinski of Enfield.

“Consumers should just pay for credit monitoring whether they’ve been a victim or not…It’s not going to stop someone from using your credit card if they access that number, but it is going to stop someone from opening new accounts,” Milagros Johnson, Manager of Springfield’s Mayor’s Office of Consumer Information, told 22News.

Carefully look over tax information sent to you in the mail. About 27-thousand tax forms with personal information were sent to the wrong people in Connecticut. That info, in the wrong hands, could do a lot of damage to your credit score.

Johnson advises to never respond to emails, phone calls or texts from the Internal Revenue Service. She said the IRS doesn’t communicate that way. They are most likely coming from imposters trying to access your personal information.

If you have received phone calls, texts or messages from imposters claiming to be the IRS, forward them to “”

“It’s very difficult. You don’t want to live your life in a bubble, but you just really need to take the extra steps because it really truly is a lot easier than people think to get your identity stolen,” said Diane Albano of West Springfield who is also a victim of identity theft.

Johnson gave 22News some tips on how to protect yourself from tax identity thieves:

File taxes early. Use a secure website with an “s” after the “http” part of the web address. Johnson said that usually means the website is safe. If you plan on filing taxes through a third party tax preparer, research the person or company and don’t be afraid to ask questions before trusting them with your information.

Johnson said to stay proactive, utilize the free, annual credit score website.