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What To Do If Your W-2 or 1099 Is Stolen

We all know that tax fraud and identity theft are big time issues these days. So it must make thieves smile when they know that W-2s, 1099s, and all sorts of juicy identity laden information is being circulated through the massive insecure United States Postal Service system. While I’ve never had this happen to me, in my ten-plus years of getting paper forms, I’m sure it’s happened to people before and it’s almost only a matter of time before it happens to me.

So, we’re going to discuss two pre-emptive measures and then reactive ones, in case your information is stolen.

Here are the two preemptive measures:

Opt for Electronic Statements

Whenever possible, opt to get electronic copies of your statements. It can be a hassle to print them out (you don’t really need the paper copy at all, I just find it’s easier to handle my taxes when I have the paper organized in front of me) but this skips mail entirely. You can’t lose in the mail what never went through it.

PO Box

If you can’t opt for electronic statements, then you’re really at the mercy of the postal service unless you want to get a PO Box. This would require you to change your address on all those accounts to your PO Box, which might cause hassles in other areas. Going to a PO Box only removes the risk that someone steals mail directly from your mailbox, which wouldn’t be an issue for us because ours is locked.

Now, what to do if your W-2, 1099, or other tax document is stolen or opened:

Fraud Alerts

You have to assume that the person who stole or opened your document is going to do something nefarious with it. Or they’re nosy and want to know how much you make. Either way, you need to assume the worst and put fraud alerts with each of the credit bureaus so they are aware. A fraud alert will add extra checks to the process of pulling your credit so that you are made aware when it happens. If someone applies for a credit card, the issuer will pull your credit and you’ll be notified.