Know what your financial institution is doing to ensure you’re protected if your personal financial information is compromised.
Last month, the Internal Revenue Service announced a significant data breach within its online application ‘Get Transcript’ that gave identity thieves access to approximately more than 100,000 taxpayers, and like many financial institutions across the country, CWA clients may have been affected.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit are still investigating the issue. They believe the thieves used data taken from non-IRS sources to get access to information within the Get Transcript application including Social Security information, birth dates and street addresses. As a result, the IRS is promising free credit monitoring services for those taxpayers whose accounts were accessed.
We know cyber security is fast becoming one of the greatest global issues of our time, and it’s no longer an option for financial organizations to take a “wait-and-see” approach. Financial advisors, banks and any agent you employ to handle or give advice related to your money, must consider themselves on the frontline when it comes to helping protect you and to recover from this kind of criminal activity. And when, not if, a breach occurs, you should feel confident that there is a solid response plan that includes these measures to put your mind at ease:
• Quick assessment; Immediate Action:
Your financial institution or agent may receive information about a breach or your compromised information even before you’re aware anything is wrong. When this happens CWA sends direct notification via email to our client informing them of the breach and what information has been compromised. With breaches such as the ‘Get Transcript’ issue, affected CWA clients receive a note informing them that someone other than an authorized agent filed individual tax return using their name and social security number to get a refund.
• Communicate the issue; Advise of other risks:
In the wake of a security breach, your financial agents who are involved should be communicating with you as much information as possible, in as much detail as possible. You shouldn’t be confused or in the dark about what’s happening. CWA works to gather as much information as we can so our clients understand how they’ve been impacted and what the other possible risks may be.
In situations like the ‘Get Transcript’ breach, affected CWA clients are advised that if they were due a refund on their tax return, they would still receive it, but there was a high likelihood that it would be delayed five to eight months while the IRS investigates and updates tax records. Not great news, but managing expectations goes a long way in easing concerns.
Additionally, one instance of identity theft very often puts victims at risk for other cybercrimes. We communicate this to our clients so that they are aware of the possibility that the thieves could use the stolen information in other ways, such as opening credit cards, bank accounts, applying for a job etc. Being watchful is key in catching suspicious activity early.
• Guide, Counsel and Advocate:
Your financial institutions should also be a source of guidance and counsel for you in the aftermath of a security breach. They should also work on your behalf to resolve the issue.
At CWA, in addition to providing our clients with the federal government’s online resources, we also provide a 6-step list of actions to take to make sure the thief is stopped. In cases of theft involving tax returns, we will represent our financial planning clients in working with the IRS, and also notify CWA investment platform companies. The goal for us, as it should be with all of the agents and organizations you employ to help manage your money, is to cover as many bases as we can in supporting our clients through identity theft.
Unfortunately, cybercrime is here to stay, but we can combat it by being proactive in taking protective measures such as our CWA IDC portal system and CWA encrypted email system to share documents. We can also be ready and equipped to respond and stop it when it happens. The bottom line is, your financial companies and agents understand how concerning this can be for you. Job one for them should be to put your mind at ease with their ability to respond.