The following post comes from Jason Thomas, manager of Innovation for the Government segment of Thomson Reuters.

Earlier this year, my aunt received a call from someone purporting to work for the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They claimed she had not filed her taxes for the preceding few years and were about to garnish her wages. Using high pressure tactics and profanity-laced language, they attempted to bully her into surrendering her bank information and other personally identifying data. Thankfully she hung up and immediately called me.

She was in tears.

Identity theft is a problem. And it’s been that way for a long time. For the past 15 years, identity theft has been the top consumer complaint at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2014 alone 332,646 complaints were filed with the FTC, representing 13 percent of all complaints. Almost 39 percent of identity theft complaints in 2014 were government documents or benefits fraud complaints — the type of scam that my aunt encountered. According to the FTC, those types of complaints were more that credit card fraud, bank fraud and loan fraud combined for 2014.

IRS tax fraud scams work. No one wants the tax man knocking on the door. It frightens people, especially vulnerable populations. And bad guys are smart. They convince, cajole and persuade their way into the pocketbooks, bank accounts and tax refunds of thousands of Americans each year.

But, we can fight back.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) released a free mobile app on September 14, 2015, which is now available for download on Android and iOS devices. The ID Theft Help app, which was funded by a grant from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), offers resources for victims including direct links to victim advisors, all free of charge to consumers. The app also offers educational tools for consumers wanting to protect themselves against identity theft.

“With the growing rates of identity theft and the fact that literally anyone can be a victim, there’s never been a more important time to have help at your fingertips,” said Eva Velasquez, President/CEO of the ITRC. “Having this app on consumers’ smartphones will serve as a daily visual reminder to safeguard their information as best they can.”

I’ve known Eva for a while. She’s a wonderful woman who believes in helping others, and like me, believes that people should be prepared instead of victimized. I encourage you to check out the app and ITRC’s website, both are great resources for fighting identity theft. The ITRC ID Theft Help app can be downloaded, free of charge, from the Apple Store and Google Play. More information about the app and its development can be found by visiting ITRC.

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