Equifax hack: Freezing your credit isn’t enough

The Equifax hack exposed the names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers of up to 145.5 million Americans. Drivers license information for 10.9 million people was also exposed, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Credit freezes won’t prevent criminals from taking over credit, bank, retirement and investment accounts, says security expert Avivah Litan with Gartner Research. Thieves also could use the purloined information to snatch your tax refund or mess with your Social Security benefits. Your email, phone, shopping and cloud-based storage accounts aren’t safe, either.

Read my Associated Press column for the steps you should take now.

Who’s giving crooks your tax information? Could be your preparer–or your boss

fraud, scam, theftThe IRS is reporting a 400 percent increase this year in malware and phishing scams as crooks try to get their hands on your tax data. Some of the scams target tax preparers, with emails that try to fool them into downloading bogus client documents or clicking on supposed links to the IRS. And some of the bad guys are going straight to your boss, reports the National Association of Enrolled Agents:

As if there weren’t already enough schemes out there to steal your identity, crooks have a new scam involving gaining access to employees’ tax forms W-2. In this scenario, emails are sent to human resources departments, supposedly from high-ranking company executives, requesting W-2s for a list of employees. Those forms have personal data that includes social security numbers. The scam was successful recently at Snapchat, a social media company in Venice, CA. Someone posing as Chief Executive Evan Spiegel requested W-2 data for nearly 700 current and past employees. Shortly after the information was sent, the HR employee became suspicious, but the information was already in the wrong hands.

Some of the stolen data is used to file phony tax returns and collect refunds. Other times it’s used to fuel imposter scams, where criminals posing as IRS agents threaten you with lawsuits or jail. Keep in mind that your first contact with the IRS over a problem won’t be a phone call or an email. The agency still uses old-school snail mail to notify taxpayers of problems.


Monday’s need-to-know money news

taxesToday’s top story: What to do if you’re a victim of tax fraud. Also in the news: Personal finance items couples hide from each other, why Millennials will spend more on Valentine’s Day, and why you should watch out for student debt predators.

Victimized by tax fraud? Here’s what to do
Take a deep breath.

What personal finance item have you ‘hidden’ from a spouse or partner?
A bounced check or a little bonus? What about a hidden credit card?

Need to slash student debt? Watch out for rip-offs
Watch out for predatory loans.

Millennials to Spend More Than Others on Valentine’s Day, Survey Finds
Ah, young love.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

how_to_build_an_emergency_fundToday’s top story: Tax tips for military personnel. Also in the news: What to do when your credit card interest rate goes up, how to handle tax return fraud, and how to survive financially when you don’t have an emergency fund.

Top Tax Tips for Military Personnel
Military service comes with some unique tax breaks.

If Your Credit Card Interest Rate Takes a Hike, Take Stock
Look for a better offer.

Someone Filed a False Tax Return in Your Name. What Now?
Taking action quickly is vital.

5 Lifelines You Can Use If You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund
Grab a life preserver and hang on.