Everyone has already heard about the Equifax breach from May 2017-July 2017.   The news makes it sound like not ALL adults in the US have been affected, well this is simply wrong.  If you have ever had a credit profile, you are at risk.  Even if you are cash based now.  The credit bureaus hang on to all our info regardless if you see it on your report or not.  So, just like everyone has said – freeze your credit right now.  It is a pain and will cost you when you need it unfrozen; however, it is the only way to protect your credit.

The other aspect of this which NO ONE is reporting on is your federal tax returns.  This is just as big of an issue as the credit side.  Not many folks have heard of fraudulent tax returns yet it does happen and is increasing in how often it happens.  How this works is someone takes your social security info, address etc. and literally files a fake tax return with W-2’s or other fraudulent supporting documentation and then gets a refund.  Mind you they do not take YOUR refund they are creating their own refund scenario.

So, not only do you need to watch your credit, you also need to watch your tax returns too.  From my perspective, this is also a big issue since we have to verify your W-2’s and tax returns with the IRS directly.  Many of you know we order transcripts (You sign a form called the IRS 4506) to compare the returns and W-2’s that you have provided so we know there is no fraud going on and that we have the accurate data when selling the loan.  If you have had fraudulent returns filed, that goes out the window and now you must do this yourself since we and anyone else requesting info is locked out and it is done via the phone with the IRS.  You cannot “unfreeze” your returns, it is blocked and that is that.  This may have as large if not larger impact on you financially and cause serious pain and frustration when trying to get it corrected.  Here are some handy links on this topic:

Identity Theft Information for Taxpayers: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p5027.pdf

FTC Identity Theft Action: https://www.identitytheft.gov/

Annual Credit Report (free and no strings): www.annualcreditreport.com