As many of you know, I have been a member of the Rockford City Council for the past two years. Getting to know and work with the other Council Members, City Manager Michael Young, the City staff, and other residents and business people has been enjoyable. A lot has happened in the past two years. The Police and Fire Departments were combined into the Department of Public Services. The Rockford Dog Park along the Rogue just south of the bridge was opened. The Rockford Area Museum was approved and will be opened for business soon. The Farm Market was voted America’s Best Farm Market. I personally love to see the infrastructure improvements that we see around town. Examples include our participation in the Ten Mile Road project in which we saw it widened to five lanes going west and also re-surfaced in town; work being done on improving the sidewalks in selected locations; and receiving a grant to extend the Rogue River Boardwalk on the west side of the river. I could go on and on but you probably get the idea. The City is a busy place and I have enjoyed being a part of it. Last week, while we were electing Barack Obama to a second term, Rockford residents were also electing three members to the City Council. Two new members, Tammy Bergstrom and Gail Mancewicz were chosen to replace retiring, long-term members Mary Eadie and Rich Moll. Incumbent Brien Dews was also re-elected for another four year term. All three were sworn in at Monday’s Council Meeting. Current Mayor Steve Jazwiec and I will continue on for the remaining two years of our terms. I’m positive these next two years will be just as interesting as the last two as I get to know and work with the new members, Tammy and Gail. Welcome to the Rockford City Council.
I have been asked to follow-up on the Identity Theft article I wrote last week about the South Carolina Department of Revenue computer system being recently hacked into. 3,600,000 Social Security Numbers and over 350,000 credit card numbers were stolen. The gist of the article was detailing what South Carolina was doing to those whose numbers were stolen. I have been asked to provide some advice to help people avoid having their identity stolen. Here is my top 5 list of items to do in that regard.
1. Let’s start with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS never, ever, uses email to notify taxpayers of a potential refund or to request information. If a taxpayer is in the middle of an audit or has an on-going situation with an IRS employee, email may be used. But you will never get an email from the IRS notifying you that there is a refund that can’t be delivered because some information is missing. Don’t go there. It’s a scam and someone is looking to steal your private information. Don’t open that email. Don’t click on any of the associated links. Don’t reply to that email. Delete it and fast. It’s not from the IRS.
2. Purchase a home shredder. Use it to shred all items that can be used to gather personal information from a third party. Shred those utility bills that have your account number on them. I know it sounds far-fetched but if someone has your name, address, and account number, could that information be used to get your bank account number that you use to electronically pay the bill? Don’t take that chance. Shred it all.
3. Buy an anti-virus software and firewall program for your computer and set it to automatically update as needed. It doesn’t go a whole lot of good to have the protection if you don’t update it.
4. Review your free credit report annually. The telephone number to get the report is: 1-877-322-8228 or it can be accessed at www.annualcreditreport.com. Inspect the report for any suspicious activity. If there is any, notify the fraud departments of not only your personal banks but also the three main credit bureaus: Equifax: 800-525-6285; Experian: 888-397-3742; and TransUnion: 800-680-7289.
5. Install passwords to ensure privacy on your in-house wireless system. If someone in a car driving by can access your in-house wireless system, that person might just have hacking software that can access all of the information on your computer. Think for a minute about all of the private information, not necessarily just financial information, on your computer. All of that information put together could very well allow someone to pretend to be you and steal your identity. Secure your information it with passwords.
Identity theft is a major issue not only here in Rockford but around the world. Do as much as you can to ensure your privacy by protecting that privacy. This is Jerry Coon signing off.
Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent and a
Registered Tax Return Preparer.
He owns Action Tax Service on
Northland Dr in Rockford.
Contact Jerry through his website: