There’s a lot of talk these days about fake news — which is interesting, because most of us have realized for quite some time that much of the news is glorified “PR” in the first place.

But before I get there, here is some information that is NOT fake…

A bunch of tax deadlines were just released to us by the IRS, and they might interest you (warning — tax-heavy content ahead):

January 23, 2017: This is the first day that the IRS will accept e-filed returns (or start processing paper ones). Here at our Bills Tax Service offices, of course, we can start working with you before that time to get your return set up, but won’t be able to actually FILE until that date.

However, if you are planning to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you should also know about this next date:

February 15, 2017: On December 18, 2015, Congress passed the “PATH Act” (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes), and one of the provisions is that the earliest day that the IRS can issue a refund for returns that use the EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) is February 15th.

The stated reason for this is that there has been so much fraud related to some taxpayers wrongly claiming these (refundable) credits, and this delay will give the IRS more time to verify the claims of these taxpayers. (Note: If you were somehow planning to get your refund earlier than this date, there may be options through a bank arrangement, so let us know if that’s you, when you come in.)

The IRS has also just told us that it might take a few days for EITC/ACTC-related refunds to process. So if you’re looking to get your refunds fast, we might need to have a conversation.

April 18, 2017: If you’re perhaps a little more laid back about your filing habits, the good news is that this year, the actual filing deadline is 3 days later.

Phew! That’s a lot of tax news. None of it fake. But before you depart from this note and head back over to FacebookLand, you should also perhaps remember that some of what you’re seeing there isn’t exactly correct — and, well, I also want to help you stay safe there. Here’s what I mean…

Fake News & Four Online Privacy Tips By Alan Newcomb
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” -Thor Heyerdahl

Like me, you’ve probably seen a friend or two post a “legal notice” to their Facebook accounts, as if it would have any kind of impact on the legal status of what they put there.

Unfortunately, what your friends are responding to is very much in the category of “fake news”.

Here’s the truth: http://bit.ly/2gEyp6Y

The best “privacy policy” I know of? If you don’t want someone to see it, don’t post it on Facebook.

Yet Centralia IL people using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other networks (even those with serious privacy controls) are thoughtlessly giving actionable intelligence to thieves.  I think that an awful lot of people believe they are invincible when they get online and communicate with their friends. But a seemingly-benign post or piece of information could actually make you a target of identity thieves and traditional crooks.

So, to protect yourself, here are four things you should avoid posting online…

1. Date of birth. Must you get random birthday greetings from elementary school friends? Almost 60% of social networkers post their date of birth (according to a survey by Identity Theft 911). But resist the urge to post your complete birth date — including the year — on your Facebook profile, just to get a lot of messages on your big day. This is extremely valuable information for identity thieves. I know — you’re thinking only your friends see what you post. But if someone does a search for your name, that person will often see your birth date if it’s listed in your profile.

2. Travel plans. I bet you’ve seen Facebook posts like this: “We’re going to the beach next week. Can’t wait!” In fact, you may be guilty of it yourself — but according to the research I’ve recently seen, 18% of social media users post travel times.

Guess what? You’ve just extended an invitation for people to burglarize your home. In fact, recently three men in New Hampshire burglarized more than 18 homes by checking Facebook status updates to see when people wouldn’t be home. Pro-Tip: Make sure anything travel-related is set to ONLY show to your trusted friends. If you see the little “globe” icon below your post, that means it’s out there for the world to see. Fix that.

3. Address. If your address is on your profile AND you let people know when you’re going out of town, well, you know where I’m going with this. Nonetheless, 21% of social media users post their address.

4. Mother’s maiden name. It may seem like common sense to not post your mother’s maiden name on a social media platform, but about 11% said they did. Identity thieves will hit the jackpot if you reveal this bit of information online.

Not only should you avoid posting any of this information, but also you should fix your Facebook settings to control who sees what on your page.

Further, use different passwords for social media sites than you use for financial sites, such as your bank or credit card site. That is ALWAYS good practice.

With all of the holiday posting that is sure to be happening, please … for the sake of your REAL privacy, keep this stuff in mind!

And remember … we’re here to help.

Warmly,

Alan Newcomb
(618) 532-7223

Bills Tax Service