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In the latest Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) report issued by the Federal Trade Commission, Texas ranks No. 12 in the nation for the most reported cases of identity theft per 100,000 residents. Nearly 135,000 Identity theft cases were documented with those aged 30-39 being the most heavily targeted group. More than $203 million in total fraud losses were reported. The most common type of identity theft reported was Government documents or benefits fraud. This aligns with BBB reports for 2020 where government/benefits fraud reports increased by nearly 3,000% over 2019 numbers.

“It’s important to be watchful for government benefits fraud,” Mechele Agbayani, President and CEO of BBB serving Central East Texas, “Particularly as we are in the middle of tax season and with a new round of stimulus checks on the horizon.”

Another fundamental way to avoid falling victim to identity theft is to shred all documents which contain personally identifiable information. BBB invites consumers to bring documents to be shredded to Secure Your ID Day, which will be held on Saturday, June 19 at BBB offices in Tyler. BBB will host additional Secure Your ID Days in Jacksonville, Lindale, and Longview later this year.

BBB also advises consumers to have a document retention schedule and offers the following suggestions:

  • Insurance documentation. Keep everything in a secure compartment for as long as you have the policy. Also, save any paperwork regarding unresolved claims/coverage.
  • Keep utility, cell phone and similar bills only until you receive confirmation that your payment has been processed. The only exception to this is if you are self-employed. Self-employed people should keep these records longer so they can prove any deductions on their tax forms.
  • Keep all loan paperwork until you pay off the loan. Then shred everything except the document that proves you paid in full.
  • Find out how much time your bank and/or credit cards give you to challenge incorrect statements. Keep them until you are no longer able to challenge them. This is typically between 60 days to one year after the mistake is made.
  • Keep pay stubs for one year. Don’t throw away your paycheck stubs until you receive your annual W-2 form from your employer. If everything matches, feel free to shred your pay stubs. Then, keep your W-2 forms for at least a few years.
  • Keep bank statements and expired insurance policies for three years
  • Keep tax returns, canceled checks/receipts, and records for tax deductions taken for seven years. The IRS has six years to challenge your return if they believe that you underreported your gross income by 25 percent or more.

Keep the following items indefinitely:

  • All paperwork related to bankruptcy, inheritance and wills.
  • Auditor’s reports.
  • House/Condominium records: It is a good idea to keep documents of expenditures related to house/condominium improvements. Capital purchases that improve or enhance the value of your home when you sell your property may lower your capital gains tax.
  • IRA contribution records: If you made a nondeductible contribution to an IRA plan, such as a Roth IRA, keep your records to show that you were already taxed for this money.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

ABOUT BBB®: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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