Getting to know your EquiFACTS

It is becoming all too common these days.

Each day there seems to be another instance of another security breach. Makes me nervous, you? As a tax preparer for the last 25 years, I know that identity theft issues are on the rise. What makes the most recent Equifax breach so alarming is the fact that they knew about it for six weeks before any announcement was made.

Why is a company that it supposed to be there to protect our private, financial information allowed to keep that from us for that long? I don’t have the answer, and there probably isn’t one, but it’s maddening nonetheless.

With more and more technology forcing us to do transactions online, seems more like a catch 22! Don’t misunderstand me, I love technology. It brings a lot of efficiencies to my life, both professional and personal. What I don’t like is how vulnerable it makes us. The new “normal”? Maybe.

So what can we do to protect ourselves and our information? Equifax did set up a free credit monitoring website for those who were impacted by the breach. If you sign up for this, it does remove you from being able to be a part of a class action lawsuit, if one is ever filed. You can also put a freeze on your credit with the three credit bureaus:

Equifax: 866-349-5191 / www.freeze.equifax.com

Experian: 888-397-3742 / www.experian.com/freeze

TransUnion: 888-909-8872 / www.transunion.com/credit-freeze

Freezing your credit puts an alert on your credit report, and if anyone tries to open a credit card, for example, it won’t allow them to do it. We recommend that you be very diligent in watching your credit score, credit card statements, and bank records. We also recommend that if you believe your identity has been stolen or compromised, you can file a Form 14039 with the IRS. IRS Publication 5027 also has information for anyone who believes their Social Security number has been stolen and/or compromised. Again, constant monitoring of your information is something we all need to get used to.

Tax season will be upon us soon. Filing your tax returns as early as possible is another way to halt someone using your Social Security number to file a false return. If you know for a fact that your SS number has been compromised, filing the Form 14039 will generate a PIN #. If you receive a PIN #, it needs to be added to your tax return as an additional security measure. Your tax return will not be processed if a PIN # has been issued and is not a part of your tax return filing. If you need additional information, please contact our office.

Laura Mraz, EA is the president and owner of LMM & Associates, Inc. Office is located at 11017 N Woodstock St. in downtown Huntley. They specialize tax planning/preparation and small business accounting.

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