I had my identity stolen. I purchased a small investment condo this summer and, of course, I did my mortgage with Wintrust Mortgage. A couple of weeks into my application my boss called to give me some news – "Someone stole your identity and filed tax returns in your name."

I have written about this in the past, yet it is hard to imagine someone committing fraud and risking jail time for a $9,000 tax refund. That is what the thief stole from our government. Had I not uncovered this incident during the refinance, it would have come up when I finally got around to filing my tax returns. Any refund coming my way would be in jeopardy, or at least delayed!

In order to document the identity theft I had to:

•       File a police report

•       File an identity theft report with the FTC

•       File a report with the IRS

•       File a "Fraud Alert" with all three credit repositories: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian

My mortgage application was approved and the loan closed.

The perpetrator of the fraud is still out there. The filings I was required to make demonstrated that it was fraud and created proof for my mortgage application. Many times, this type of identity theft is committed on a much larger scale.

In order to raise awareness, we will periodically share with you some "Security Briefs," quick updates, strategies and ideas to help you protect yourself and your valuable identity.

Today's Security Brief: to prevent tax identity theft, file your tax returns as early as possible.

Prevention is the best medicine. Protect your identity before anything happens.