Equifax Breach

Be wary of any emails you receive that are purportedly from Equifax and suggest you click on this or that link.  The security breach is a perfect opportunity for fraudsters pretending to be from Equifax to prey upon the chance to steal your identity and/or compromise your computer’s security.  The best thing to do, always, when you receive an email from any business who asks you to click on their link is to instead find the company’s website and follow any links you find there. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's page at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do .  Follow the instructions to discover if your information was disclosed to the hackers. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it.

After you learn if your personal information was exposed you will receive an offer to sign up for 1 year of complimentary identity theft protection and credit monitoring service.  If you do not already have such a service I suggest you take them up on their offer.  If someone tries to take out a credit card or loan in your name you'll find out about it immediately and early enough to manage the issue. 

Consider freezing access to your credit files.  All three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian & Transunion give you the ability to freeze your credit.  The benefit is that most lenders will not offer a loan to anyone pretending to be you if they can't check your credit first.  The cost is $10 per service.  Be aware that if you freeze your credit you must remember to unfreeze it temporarily if you file for a credit card, an auto loan or sign up with a new utility company.  There is some administration necessary.  And you have to be absolutely SURE that your PIN is in a place where you will be able to find it again.

While a credit freeze does not prevent current creditors from accessing your credit report, it does restrict the ability of new creditors to access your credit information. In other words, if you already have an account with Chase, an identity thief may still be able to open an account through Chase since that is not a “new” creditor.

Check your credit report at annualcredtireport.com. Consumers are entitled to one credit report from each of the three reporting agencies each year. We recommend downloading a report from a different agency every three to four months.

Download a report from Experian today, TransUnion in January, and Equifax in May to monitor your credit year-round without charge.

Stop pre-screened credit offers to limit future exposure by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You can also opt out online.

You can also put a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim. The creditor must then verify the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name before your credit information can be released.

Last, but not least, file your income taxes early each year and be sure to respond to any IRS correspondence immediately. Doing so will limit the ability of scammers to use your Social Security numbers to get a tax refund in your name.

Scammers also use stolen Social Security numbers to apply for work, when arrested for crimes and infractions, to get medical care, and to steal benefits to which you are entitled.

If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov to report and start your recovery plan immediately. Clients should also contact us so we can begin helping you with any necessary changes to your financial information.

MyRA accounts ending

I think there has finally been some good to come out of this Administration. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has announced that the MyRA program is being shut down. That's good for the American taxpayer and neutral for the approximately 30,000 people who have these accounts, which have been available for nearly 2 years.

According to the SF Chronicle and other news sources, the bill to administer the program has been $70,000,000.  With 30,000 account holders who are earning Treasury interest rates, the cost to the government has amounted to $1,166 per account per year.

Here's an idea: If the government wants to encourage people to have IRA's, that aren't subject to the $15,000 maximum account value that the MyRA is, create a tax credit that reimburses people for the annual custodial fee of $15 to $30 that some banks and credit unions charge. Vanguard only charges $20 per year, and that only if the retirement account balance is less than $10,000. 

These are reasonable fees for custody and record keeping, and there's a good argument that investors with small balances are discouraged by having to pay these fees. A tax credit to offset that fee solves the problem, without adding yet another type of government controlled retirement program, that has only one investment choice, and requires people to leave the program anyway, after a few years of contributions.