Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Several years ago I began receiving rejection letters in the mail from credit card companies that for cards I had not applied.  I immediately became very concerned and started to make calls to the credit bureaus.  It didn’t take long to discover my identity had been stolen and someone was opening accounts and making large purchases in my name.

It took more than six months and many letters and phone calls to get this cleared up.  One of the stores even had video footage of the people using a card with my name and still did not believe it wasn’t me.

Identity theft can happen to anyone.  The following are some guidelines to help avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud. If you have already become a victim, see our Tips for Victims.

• Beware of Fake IRS E-Mails –
the IRS does not initiate communication with taxpayers through e-mail and only or extremely rare occasions to they call.

• Don’t carry a Social Security Card
, extra credit cards or a passport unless the documents are needed.

• Memorize your Social Security Number
, any personal identification numbers and passwords. If you write them down, do not record them on anything in your wallet or purse. When creating a password or PIN, do not use digits from your Social Security number, telephone number or date of birth.

• Sign new credit cards upon receipt.
 Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills. Never throw them away intact in a public trash container.

• Never loan out your credit card.
 Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.

• Never give out personal identity information, especially Social Security or credit card numbers over the phone, unless you know the person or business and you initiated the phone call.

• Beware of phone or mail solicitations
 disguised as promotions offering prizes or bargains designed solely to obtain your Social Security or credit card numbers.

• Don’t leave mail out for pickup
 and do have a locked mailbox. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.

• Shred all mail, bills, receipts and financial documents
 with your name or identification numbers on them, especially pre-approved offers of credit. Thieves have been known to fish identities out of trash bins.

• Look over monthly credit card and bank statements carefully.
 Follow up if any charges or withdrawals appear suspicious.

• Order credit reports from the three major credit bureaus at least once a year
 and more often if you have been a victim. Check every line of information in your file for fraudulent activity and other discrepancies.

• Pay bills electronically when possible.
 Follow up with creditors if you do not receive a bill on time because it could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and has changed the billing address.

• Remove your name from the marketing lists
 of the three major credit reporting bureaus to limit the pre-approved offers of credit you receive.

• Keep the number of credit cards you use to a bare minimum.
Cancel all unused credit card accounts.

Even with these precautions you can still be a victim.  However,  minimizing the information someone can still will improve your chances.

Meet Bukky!

Oyebukunola (Bukky) Ande graduated in 2003 from Fisk University with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master’s in Business Administration from Winthrop University in 2014. She started her professional career working in Mortgage in 2005 before proceeding to a CPA firm in 2008 where she worked as an Auditor for 2 years.  In 2010, she started working as a Tax Accountant.

Bukky has experience preparing tax returns – Individual and Corporate, providing bookkeeping services and representing clients with taxpayers.  She is a Certified Public Accountant in South Carolina (2012) and North Carolina (2014). She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her family.

You Have Never Asked for That………..

There are days, usually on Mondays, that I would really like everything to standstill for just a little while.

However, that just does not happen.

Everything seems to be in a constant state of flux.  Unfortunately, the Income Tax system is a good example of that constant change.  At least, it seems that way to me as I deal with it from year-to-year.

This year appears to be no exception for changes. While there are not too many changes to the actual tax laws there is a great many changes to the documentation that is being required. The Internal Revenue Service is putting an emphasis on security and deduction verification this year.  Therefore, we will be asking for things we never asked for before such as a copy of an individual’s driver’s license or a copy of their Social Security card. This year will be asking for those things because we are being required to prove people’s identity.  We cannot file a return without the driver’s license number.

In addition to documenting people’s identity we are also being required to document the existence of children. Therefore, if the taxpayer qualifies for a child tax credit, we are now required to ask for proof of the child’s existence such as copies of school records, healthcare provider records, etc. This one really drives me crazy. I’ve been in business for 15 years and some of these kids I know.  They have come in with you at times when you’ve come to ask questions or pick up your tax return. Therefore, I know they exist, but I still have to ask the questions and document the answers.

For dependents that are in college, depending on the information that we receive, we may have to do additional verification for them as well.  If a tuition tax credit is being claimed, that information cannot even be entered if we do not have the 1098 – T.

I can only imagine how annoying this seems to the taxpayer. It places an additional burden on the tax preparer and we are subject to penalties and fees if we don’t comply with the new documentation standards. And ,as you would expect, all this additional work takes more time and drives up cost.

Hopefully, this will give you a heads up as to what we will be asking this year for documentation. Some folks who showed up early have already said, “You have never asked for that before”.

And they are correct, but we have to ask for it now.  So, please bear with us.

Meet Aneissa!

You may call our office occasionally and may be lucky enough to speak to Aneissa Hyde, so we wanted you to get to know her! Aneissa is our Administrative Support Specialist and we are lucky to have her!

More About Aneissa

Aneissa J. Hyde joined the Angela Lane, CPA team in January 2017 to as an Administrative Support Specialist.  Her position entails assisting the Payroll/Bookkeeping Assistant (Cindy) and the staff Accountant (Bukky).  This includes answering all incoming calls, making inquiries to clients for needed information.  In other words, helping out wherever needed to make us all more efficient.

Previously, Ms. Hyde was the Town Clerk for the Town of East Spencer for 7 years were she wore many hats, from the Office Manager to the Finance Director.  These years of experience has taught her many trades, such as giving excellent customer service, being detail-oriented, and having excellent soft skills.  Her motto is, “its okay to get out of your comfort zone by critical thinking and using problem solving skills”.

Ms. Hyde was born and raised in Salisbury, NC and is graduated of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, NC with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with minor in Business Administration.  She is a mother of 3 sons (Keirsten, Cameron, and Ramsey) and 1 daughter (Madison).  In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and learning new things.

I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?                           ~Soledad O’Brien

Hiccups

We all know about hiccups. We have all had them. They are sudden, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. As the muscle contracts repeatedly, the opening between the vocal cords snaps shut to check the inflow of air and makes the hiccup sound. Everyone’s hiccup sound is different but we all know immediately when someone has them.

Businesses’ can have the hiccups, too. The sound is usually a little less audible (but sounds more like a groan) but none the less just as irritating and frustrating as human hiccups. If not reacted to quickly and positively the ramifications can be devastating.

We recently experienced a Hiccup in the business. It came suddenly and involuntarily and it certainly was very unwelcomed. It happened when I was diagnosed with cancer. We were just a few months away from the beginning of our busiest time of year (year end and tax season) and I was facing surgery, recovery from surgery, and then radiation and chemo therapy treatments. I had limited time to prepare.

I had a disaster recovery plan that included what to do for weather, fire, and floods/water damage and for equipment failure but it never occurred to me to plan for the loss of a key player at an inopportune time. Because of my lack of planning work was slow to be completed which caused frustrations through the office and with the clients. We are still not sure what the lasting impact of this hiccup will have on the business but I have learned somethings which might help someone else with their hiccup.

Here are 4 suggestions

  1. Identify and include the loss of key personal to your disaster recovery plan. I once read that a small business owner should always be recruiting. They should be aware of people that they come in contact with every day such as in restaurants and stores and offices and make a note of people they think might make a good employee. Then add this information to a personal data base. When or if the time comes you have an immediate source for help.
  2. Cross train employees. That allows someone to step in the gap at least temporarily until the need is resolved. If there is no one else in the company that can do that position, identify sources where potential replacements can be found and have them in a data base that can be accessed quickly.
  3. OVER ESTIMATE how long your hiccup will last. This was probably my biggest mistake. I was too optimistic about how much I was going to be able to do and how soon I would be pulling my load. I was able to come back to work within a few weeks but was unable to work a full day. I had not anticipated this problem.
  4. If adding temporary help make it the right fit for the company. This was another mistake of mine. I brought in temporary help that fit my budget but didn’t have the appropriate background and training. The plan was to invest time in training. It would have been better to bring in someone that could have hit the ground running. It would have kept the work from piling up, everyone’s frustration from mounting, and disappointing the clients. Even if I had to use temporary funding it would have kept things on an even kill and the fear of potential loss business during this time would not have been as great. A word of caution though; the use of debt to support payroll should only be for a brief period or it will financially impact the business creating a different problem.

It is difficult to plan for every possible business interruption. It seems that something will come along that will always take you by surprise. But adding this to the disaster recovery plan might just stop or shorten a hiccup.

On a personal note: Many of you know that I have been battling cancer. Well, I am happy to report, it looks like I am winning. I am not completely out of the woods yet but I have been stable for about six months now and the last images show a slight improvement.

Thank you all for your support and prayers. However, I ask that you keep up the prayers and positive energy until I am cured.