Security Planning Identity Theft To protect your identity when dealing with other companies, make sure to check your financial statements and credit report for unauthorized use, as financial institutions will typically bear the risk of loss from fraudulent activity if you promptly report it (usually within 60 days). Many financial institutions provide tools to help you protect your information and accounts; we encourage you to use these tools.If you have been a victim of identity theft you can create a detailed report at the Federal Trade Commission website. Once you create this report, it can be used by your local law officers in their investigation. It can also be sent to the credit reporting agencies if you have problems arise with your credit report. Protecting Your Credit While we go to great lengths to protect the information that you share with us, we also want to encourage you to take the proper steps to ensure that information is safeguarded on your end.Technological advances in connectivity and portability have only increased users’ susceptibility to identity theft. If you ever receive a communication from us discussing or requesting your personal information and you have any doubt about its veracity, please take down the caller’s name and number. Then, call the office at the number listed under Contact Us and ask us to verify the communication. There are 3 Credit Reporting Agencies: Equifax Experion Transunion Free Annual Credit ReportYou can obtain a free review of your credit score annually from each credit agency at annualcreditreport.com. Credit Monitoring Credit monitoring services are often made available after a company has been breached. These services alert you to suspicious activity on your credit report. However, since these services often only alert you to an issue after it has occurred, we have provided resources to help you prevent issues from occurring in the first place.Credit Freeze A credit freeze will prevent all credit transactions and is in effect until you lift it. It can be lifted online or by mail, but it cannot be lifted by phone. Credit AlertA credit alert is a temporary credit freeze that lasts for ninety (90) days. Internet Security Practices Technology, and in particular the Internet and cloud-based data storage, has made life easier for users in many ways. However, it also enables criminals to more easily and more remotely commit fraud and identity theft. We, and most legitimate companies, will never ask for your personal information over email. We utilize an encrypted document storage system with a higher level of security to transfer this information to and from our clients. If you do need to provide information over email, be sure that you encrypt your email. Anti-virus software is a critical tool to protect your devices from threats, such as viruses, spyware, adware, malware, and spam. Similarly, if you are entering personal information on a website, make sure that website is secure. Computer security provider Norton offers a free website checker called Safe Web you can use if you are unsure about a website’s security. Many scams and viruses target at-risk populations such as children and the elderly. When dealing with someone at-risk, it helps to take extra precautions, including using Parental Control features and monitoring online behavior. Downloads can contain viruses, can involve fees/microtransactions, or violate laws. Be sure to only download files from trusted sources. For more information please see the US Government Page on Online Safety. Password Protection A secure password is critical for protecting your identity online. We recommend that you create a different password for each online account and change each password at least quarterly. If you have difficulty remembering these passwords, consider using a secure password manager (some web browsers even include this feature). If you do keep a hard copy of your passwords, we recommend you keep it in a securely locked place and not an obvious location near your computer. Fraud Email FraudEmail scams are all too common. From phishing scams designed to steal personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and passwords, these scams either ask you to confirm this information or infect your computer with a virus to obtain it. If you are suspicious of any email, you can research it in a separate browser window to see if it is potential scam. Email scams often make threats or promises that you should ignore, such as incurring fines, disabling your account, or offering you free money. If you do open a suspicious email, do not click on any link in the email.A common red flag that should raise your suspicion is when an individual or company asks for information that they already have. Financial FraudOnce they have access to your information, there are many ways criminals can use it online. Stolen credit/debit card numbers can be used to make online purchases that are delivered to the criminal. The best method of avoiding these issues is prevention.A similar purchase-related fraud is when the product purchased is not delivered or is misrepresented online. Credit cards are the safest method to pay for online purchases, as you can dispute the charges if there is an issue. Do not provide personal information unless you are making a purchase from a trusted website.Fraudulent investment scams often involve soliciting forged or counterfeit investments, loans, or purchases. Tax FraudThe IRS will never attempt to contact you initially electronically or by phone. The IRS will send a written notice first so be cautious of any communications not in writing claiming to be from the IRS.Your stolen personal information can be used to file fraudulent tax returns, often using falsified information to obtain a tax refund. If you have been a victim of identity theft, even indirectly, such as being a client of a business that was hacked, we encourage you to file IRS Affidavit Form 14039 as a potential victim. This form alerts the IRS to watch for suspicious activity on your return. Filing this form and your return early not only limits the opportunity for criminals to file a fraudulent return but also begins the process of the IRS verifying your identity and information. Even if you file early, you have until the April 15th tax deadline to pay anything owed. For more information please review the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft. You likely will also want to report potential tax fraud to your local state agencies and police departments.419 FraudThis scam involves asking the victim through a letter, email, or social media to send money or some other payment to remedy an unfortunate situation. The sender often claims to be a government official or royalty from a third-world nation. The sender often promises that your original payment will result in you receiving a larger future payment. After making payment, the sender will either continue to ask for more money as a new complication has arisen or they will simply vanish. For more information please see the FBI's Scams and Safety Section on Nigerian Letter or "419" Fraud.