On September 7, Equifax – one of the three largest American credit agencies – announced a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting consumer information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, etc., leaving them vulnerable to identity theft.
We want to make sure you’re aware of available resources to ensure the protection of your personal and financial information. Please follow the steps below to determine if you or anyone in your household was impacted by this incident:
1. Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
2. Click on the “Potential Impact” link, and you will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
3. Based on that information, you will receive a message indicating whether your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.
4. If your information has been compromised, Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all U.S. consumers. The deadline to request your complimentary one-year monitoring is November 21, 2017. Learn more, here.
While Raymond James and other financial firms employ the most up-to-date safeguards to protect client account numbers and other important personal information, you play a vital role in keeping your information secure. There are many ways for you to help keep your information secure.
• Protect passwords, PINs and answers to any security questions by not sharing them with anyone you don’t want to have access to your accounts. Avoid easily guessed passwords (e.g. family members’ names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, etc.).
• Keep firewalls and security software up to date, and use encryption software on your laptops.
• Use your personal computer for financial transactions, avoiding public-use computers if at all possible.
• Do not give out vital information over the phone, by email or through in-person requests. Type in the URL of the site you want rather than clicking a link provided in an email.
• Check your financial accounts regularly to ensure no unauthorized activity is taking place. Contact your credit card company or financial account institution immediately if you notice anything suspicious.
• Monitor email, social media and online financial accounts for unauthorized changes. If you receive an email that changes have been made to one of your accounts (e.g. new contact details, new addresses, etc.) that you did not authorize, follow the instructions provided by your service provider to protect your accounts.
• Only click on links or open attachments that you expect and are from sources you know and trust. Even if an email is from someone you know, if it looks suspicious, play it safe and confirm with the sender before opening.
We’ll be happy to discuss this incident and other aspects of financial and personal information security. Just give us a call.
Each year, on the last Monday in May, the United States observes Memorial Day. This unofficial start of summer is so much more than a day off from work. The federal holiday started after the American Civil War as a way to honor fallen soldiers. That tradition continues today, now extended to honor all Americans who have sacrificed their lives while fighting for our freedom in the armed forces.
Many also use the occasion to remember family members who’ve passed, whether military or not. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time; another tradition lowers the flag to half-staff from dawn until noon. Of course, it’s not unheard of to dust off the grill and enjoy a day outside, perhaps even at the beach. Regardless of how you spend the holiday, I hope you’ll be surrounded by family and friends.
Please note the financial markets and our office will be closed on May 29th, 2017 to observe this holiday. Should you find it necessary, you can access your accounts using Raymond James Investor Access any time.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is vital to helping protect the financial future of those affected and their families.
Research shows declining financial skills are among the first symptoms to appear in people with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia. More than 5 million Americans — including 1 in 9 people over age 65 — are living with Alzheimer’s and someone in the U.S. develops the disease every 67 seconds (source: The Alzheimer’s Association®).
The Alzheimer’s Association® has created a list of 10 warning signs of the disease. For many people, symptoms may appear as a change in presentation or mannerisms. Each person is different and will not necessarily display all the following symptoms commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. These warning signs are not always a sign of Alzheimer’s; they could be the sign of a disease that is treatable. If you know a friend or family member experiencing any of the following, encourage that person to schedule an appointment with a doctor immediately:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Examples include forgetting recently learned information, important dates or events, or repeatedly asking for the same information.
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to follow a recipe or monitor monthly bills.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work, or remembering rules to a favorite game.
- Confusion with time or place
Examples include losing track of dates, seasons, and the passage of time. People with Alzheimer’s may, at times, forget where they are or how they got there.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
Some people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble reading, judging distance, and determining color or contrast, potentially causing problems with driving.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
This involves problems with following or joining conversations. People with Alzheimer’s may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue. They may also have trouble remembering words to identify objects (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock.”)
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
An example is placing things in unusual places and not remembering where the individual had been before losing them.
- Decreased or poor judgment
This includes making extravagant purchases or giving large amounts of money to telemarketers. People with dementia may also pay less attention to personal hygiene.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
Some people with Alzheimer’s may begin to have trouble following their favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a project associated with a favorite hobby.
- Changes in mood and personality
Mood changes can include confusion, depression, or the acts of being suspicious, fearful, or anxious. People with Alzheimer’s may also become easily upset at home, at work, or with friends.
Being a caregiver can be overwhelming, and the stress associated with this critical role can make it difficult to take action. Transamerica’s Caregiver’s Guide to Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia, written in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, was created to help you feel confident when making decisions for, or with, a loved one living with dementia. Work with your financial advisor before taking final action.
This content was created and distributed by Transamerica Capital, Inc. Raymond James is not affiliated with Transamerica or MIT AgeLab.
Identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition and use of a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain. Identity theft for purposes of filing fraudulent tax returns has been occurring for many years. According to Forbes, as of March 5, 2016, the IRS had identified 42,148 tax returns with $227 million claimed in fraudulent refunds. The IRS is working on methods to detect fraudulent returns before being processed. This coming tax season IRS has already warned that returns with Earned Income Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit will be held for additional scrutiny until February 15th. This will allow IRS to compare early filed returns with reported W-2s and 1099s.
What can you do? Protect your SSN. Most of the reasons to provide your SSN to anyone would be to open bank accounts, apply for credit cards/loans, file tax returns, fill out W-4s and I-9s for employment, and fill out W-9s as a subcontractor. Others may ask for it, but be sure to find out why they need it. Many doctors’ offices ask for it in their paperwork, but find out why they need it. I only provide them with the last four digits of my SSN.
There are many phishing scams trying to obtain your sensitive information. The current ones to watch out for according to the IRS are:
1. Fake emails purporting to contain an IRS tax bill related to the Affordable Care Act. IRS does not email notices to you.
2. IRS impersonation calling demanding payment for back owed taxes and wanting payment. IRS would have sent you many notices before any call would be made to you and would not ask for payment over the phone or for you to obtain prepaid cards.
3. Fake emails citing tax fraud and trying to trick victims into verifying the last four digits of their SSN by clicking on the link provided.
4. IRS impersonation call saying they have your tax return and just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as SSN or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
5. Fake email phishing scheme to payroll and human resource professionals that purports to be from a company executives and requests personal information on employees.
Of course, scams evolve all the time and you should be leery of anyone asking you for sensitive information or money. The best thing to do is take down their name and number and ask us about it. You can also call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.
By Traci A. Malik, CPA/CFF CFE MAcc
Opinions are those of Traci Malik and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions of Traci Malik.