FINANCIAL INSIGHTS ARCHIVES (2014 Year)
Six Tips to Help You Avoid Online Fraud
By Financial Planning Association
Callout: Never use personally identifying information, such as the last four digits
of your Social Security number, in a password or username.
Social Media Message:
We live in an online world. Consider these tips to keep you -- and your assets -- safe.
What steps can you take to secure your valuable personal and financial data
when banking or shopping online? Consider the following tips as important baseline checks.
As technology continues to evolve, so too have the skills of cyber-criminals, who have honed their
ability to break through firewalls, stealing valuable personal data and funds. What steps can you
take to better secure your valuable personal and financial data when banking online? Consider the
following six tips as important baseline checks.
Tip 1: Be Safe When Connecting
Be careful how and where you use any online banking system.
• Never connect to the Internet through an unsecured, public, wireless network.
• Never access your account from a link. Links are easy to tamper with, especially if they are
embedded in an email, text message, or online article. Always go directly to the home page of the
financial institution first, and navigate from there.
Tip 2: Protect Your Passwords
Choose and use your passwords carefully. Use at least eight characters and include a liberal mix of uppercase
and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.
• Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts -- doing so leaves you more vulnerable.
• Never use personally identifying information, such as the last four digits of your Social Security
number, in a password or username.
• Be sure to change your passwords regularly and avoid reusing the same password and
username on different websites.
• Never share passwords, PINs, or other account-related information in response to an unsolicited
request. If you did not initiate the communication, you should not provide any information.
Tip 3: Regularly Monitor Your Accounts
Check account activity and online statements often, instead of waiting for your monthly statement. If you notice a "red flag," contact your bank immediately. When a customer reports an unauthorized transaction within 60 days of the occurrence, the financial institution will typically cover the loss and take measures to protect the account.*
Six Tips to Help You Avoid Online Fraud
Tip 4: Protect Your Equipment
Be sure your computers and mobile devices are equipped with up-to-date antivirus and malware protection.
• Most computer operating systems have built-in security firewalls. Be sure yours is set at "medium" or higher.
• Exercise the same caution with your wireless home Internet connection. Without proper protection, there is nothing to protect anyone from gaining access to your computer files and personal account data. WPA encryption is considered the best type of
Wi-Fi protection; WEP should be used only if WPA is not available.
Tip 5: Be Careful When Using Social Media
Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are used by millions of people worldwide, but be sure to exercise caution when sharing personal information on these sites. Details such as your birth date, home address, or the names of schools you attended are frequently used by financial institutions to validate your identity and are therefore potentially useful to cyber-criminals. Always review the privacy policies for any social network you join so as to avoid unintended disclosure of information.
Tip 6: Shop on Secured Sites
If you shop online, be sure to use only websites and merchants that you trust and that protect your account information with industry-standard security protocols. Look for secure transaction signs, such as a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of your browser or "https" in the address bar. With a healthy dose of caution and some old-fashioned common sense, you can safely use the Internet
as a time-saving, convenient resource.
*Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Section 1005.6.
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by Wealth Management Systems Inc. or its sources, neither Wealth Management Systems Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall Wealth Management Systems Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use
of the content.
© 2014 Wealth Management Systems Inc. All rights reserved.
Clearing Up the Gift Tax Confusion
By Donna Yakawich, Wealth Advisor
It’s that magical time of the year again when we are reminded of the importance of giving. When socializing at parties and gatherings, I will inevitably be asked questions on the confusing subject of gift taxes. This is one of those subject areas related to taxes that I look forward to providing the answers. Likely you will never have to pay this tax, but if you do, it’s a good problem since it usually means that you have accumulated some decent wealth!
The numerous misconceptions surrounding gift taxes can cause many to be less generous than they would like to be out of concern that the IRS will undoubtedly penalize them. The following are some basic guidelines on gift taxes that may help to dispel some of these fears.
First of all, it is important to understand that gift taxes and estate taxes are connected. The gift tax was established to prevent large estates from being completely shielded from taxation by a lifetime of giving. The process of estate and gift taxes is entirely different than that of income taxes. Income taxes are paid by the person who receives the income. Estate and gift taxes are paid by the person who had the money or property, not by the person who receives the money or property. So, there is no tax to pay if you receive a gift – great!
Simply stated, here’s how it works: currently the federal tax code gives you and your spouse each a lifetime tax exemption of $5.25 million called “the unified tax credit”. Let’s call this your ‘gift credit’.
• If you give more than $14,000 (the 2013 IRS annual gift tax exclusion) to an individual in any one year, the excess counts against your ‘gift credit’. The IRS refers to gifts over $14,000 as taxable gifts, which will need to be reported on IRS Form 709 by April 15 of the year following the gift. The good news is that generally you just file and you do not have to pay tax with the return. You will usually only pay tax once the $5.25 million gift credit is exhausted.
• Then, when you die, the money and property you left behind (known as your estate) is valued. If that value is less than your remaining gift credit there will be no tax due – hurray!
• If, however, the value of your estate is more than your remaining gift credit, an estate tax return will be filed with the IRS, and your estate may have to pay tax.
Keep in mind that the $14,000 per year annual gift tax exclusion can be given to any number of individuals in a given year. In addition, a husband and wife are each entitled to their own annual gift tax exclusions. So, for example, grandparents can give up to $28,000 to each grandchild. In addition, the tax code also allows for various other gift exclusions, including:
• Gifts to qualifying charities.
• Certain direct payments to schools or healthcare providers.
• Unlimited gifts made to one’s spouse (limited if not a US citizen).
These gifts incur no tax and have no filing requirements. So be as generous with these as you like but be aware of the rules.
This article only covers the basics of federal gift taxes. If you are planning to give a sizeable gift of money or property and have a large estate, it is important to contact your financial professionals for more information to avoid unintended consequences. Also be aware that Washington State has its own gift tax exemption of $2 million.