• I don’t know about you, but here at Team Walia, we are all still recovering from the shock of Newtown this week at our Worcester tax preparation office. Our thoughts and prayers have stayed there, for sure.

    As for me, I’m continually having to resist the urge to delve overly deeply into the story, because, in this case, I’m not sure there is much to be truly gained by a more sustained and deep look.

    In fact, I urge you to consider the “fruit” which comes from continual diving into all of the details of these kinds of stories.
    It’s not always good. Yes, it can provide something to discuss at all of the holiday parties this upcoming weekend … and we can pray for the victims’ loved ones … but dwelling on what is truly horrifying can also break something inside your soul.

    Hey — I’m a simple Worcester tax pro. We’re not supposed to have an opinion on such things. But I’m also someone who knows what can happen with a diet of “too much media”.

    On a completely separate note, but speaking further of taxes, last week I wrote about giving, no matter what happens with the tax rates … and looking back now, perhaps it was more prescient than I realized. No news breaking on it, but this week there have been many more articles and opinion pieces flowing around about eliminating or capping the charitable deduction break.

    Opposing views:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/16/business/the-charitable-deduction-and-why-it-needs-to-stay.html?_r=0
    vs.
    http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2012/12/17/dont-fight-a-tax-on-deductions/

    So, in that sense at least, perhaps 2012 really is the best time to give.

    Now, this is the week in which many of my clients and friends choose to travel for the holidays. And, not coincidentally, it’s also a season when the robbers like to make a play or two. Let’s not make it easy on them, shall we?

    A Worcester Tax Pro’s Guide To Common Sense Social Media Privacy
    Recently, many people on Facebook were posting their own little “legal notice” to their Facebook accounts, as if it would have any kind of impact on the legal status of what they put there.

    Here’s the truth: http://www.snopes.com/computer/facebook/privacy.asp

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

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

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

    1. Date of birth.
    Really? 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 see often your birth date if it’s listed in your profile.

    2. Child’s date of birth.
    When you post “Happy Birthday to my sweet Maddie, who turns 5 today,” you’re giving identity thieves valuable information about your child. When it comes to your kids, resist the urge to post any information about them. In fact, there are even more malevolent actors out there who can use this information for more than just identity theft.

    3. 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 network 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.

    4. 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 network users post their address.

    5. Mother’s maiden name.
    It may seem like common sense to not post your mother’s maiden name on a social networking site, 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.

    I hope this helps!