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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2022 > Two simple actions can help ward off identity theft

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Two simple actions can help ward off identity theft

In a study co-sponsored by AARP, nearly 42 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2021, costing consumers a combined $52 billion in losses.
Two effective ways to protect your identity are to freeze your credit and to establish an Identity Protection PIN with the IRS.
Identity theft occurs when a person obtains and uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud. Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information, including your Social Security number, to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the three major consumer credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and request a credit freeze:
  • To freeze your credit with Equifax, click on its website or call: 1-800-685-1111.
  • To freeze your credit with Experian, click on its website, or call 1-888-397-3742.
  • To freeze your credit with TransUnion click on its website, or call 1-888-909-8872.
When you make the request, you will need to provide your name, address, birthdate and Social Security number. You’ll then be asked a few questions to verify your identity and get a PIN that you can use to unfreeze and refreeze your credit report as needed.

Pros and cons of freezing your credit

Among its advantages, a credit freeze:

  • Helps reduce your risk of identity theft.
  • Is free.
  • Can be lifted if you need to have your credit checked.

Among its disadvantages, a credit freeze:

  • Requires you to contact each credit bureau with whom you’ve frozen your credit to lift the freeze if you want to apply for a credit card, mortgage or other financial product that requires a credit check.
  • Can delay your applications for jobs, cellphone service or any other situation that requires a credit check, because you must lift the freeze each time and the freeze can take a few days to thaw.

Identity Protection PIN can safeguard you against identity theft

IP PINs can help protect you from identity thieves filing tax returns under your Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. After you apply to this program, you will receive a six-digit number that a taxpayer can use to prove his/her identity when filing his/her tax return.
The IRS provides the following information and/or guidance on requesting an IP PIN:

  • For security reasons, enrolled participants receive a new IP PIN each year; it is valid for one year.

  • Anyone with an IP PIN must use it when filing a federal tax return during the year, including prior-year tax returns.

  • IP PIN users should share their number only with the IRS and a trusted tax-preparation provider. The IRS will never call, email or text a request for the IP PIN.

  • Currently, taxpayers can request an IP PIN for 2022. The IRS will issue new IP PINs starting in January 2023.

  • Taxpayers who can’t validate their identity online and whose income is below a certain threshold, can file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. The 2022 threshold is $73,000 for individuals and $146,000 for “married filing jointly.”

If you need help addressing identity theft, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s Identity Theft Unit at or 800-282-0515.