Avoid Identity Theft This Tax Season: File Early!


It’s been some time since Ben Franklin made his famous quip about nothing being certain in life – except for death and taxes. But despite the intervening centuries, it still holds true. And year after year, tax season returns – and with it, hassles, headaches, and frustrations.

While many people put off filing until the last minute simply to avoid facing the inevitable, it’s usually a much better idea to file as soon as possible. Certainly, filing during the early weeks of tax season makes sense if you’re getting a refund; but even if you owe money, filing early can help ensure your return is properly submitted, and it might even help reduce your risks of having your tax return (and the information it contains) stolen by thieves.

Preventing Identity Theft and Tax Fraud

Your tax return contains plenty of personal information, including your social security number, birthdate and address – all of which provide cybercriminals with a gold mine of data they can use to steal your identity, ruin your credit and pretty much create havoc in your life.

Criminals who “specialize” in identity theft are pretty good students of human behavior. They know people are far more likely to file their returns late – and they also know that by concentrating their activities during those hectic months, they could increase their chances of capturing some of that sensitive data.

Tax season isn’t just for “new” incidents of identity theft either. For criminals who already have your name and social security number, filing a return in your name early in the season means they can reroute any anticipated refund to a bogus bank account, making off with the funds before you have a chance to file your own legitimate return. Filing early gives thieves less time to file a fraudulent return, and it may also raise some red flags that can help the IRS track down someone who tries to submit a fraudulent return using your name later in the tax season.

More Common Than You Think

Tax fraud may seem unlikely, but actually, it costs the IRS millions of dollars each year, just in bogus refunds. That doesn’t include the amount of taxpayer money that’s used to combat tax fraud and to track down the thieves – many of whom aren’t caught. And if you are one of the people whose refunds are diverted, it can take months before the IRS can verify your claim and send you your refund.

In addition to filing early, here are four more tips to help you protect your identity this tax season:

  • If you file online, log out of the tax site each time you finish working.
  • Don’t use public computers to file your return, and don’t share your computer with someone you don’t trust.
  • Don’t leave tax forms or personal data (including W-2 forms) in your car or on your desk or other areas at work.
  • Shred scratch paper and any other forms or paperwork you don’t need.
  • Be suspicious of ANY email or telephone call from the IRS, especially if they ask you to log in to a site or provide personal information. Requests from the IRS for personal information are rare; you can – and should – email or call the IRS directly to confirm the request is from them.
  • If you’re due a refund, have it direct-deposited to prevent a check from being stolen in the mail.

Just these few simple precautions can go a long way toward helping you avoid identity theft this tax season.


It’s Financial Wellness Month: Here’s What Your Small Business Should Do


January is Financial Wellness Month, and as a small business owner, you know how important it is to make sure your finances are in order every month of the year. Since January is the beginning of a new fiscal year for most businesses, it makes sense to take some time this month to make sure your finances and your insurance coverage are ready to handle whatever challenges the new year may bring. Here are four steps to get you started.

4 Simple Steps to Better Business Finance

  1. Review your budget and revise it as needed. If you intend to make improvements or add services or products, now is the time to plan for those additions, including any insurance or marketing costs related to their rollout.
  2. Revisit your hiring practices. Your company relies on a qualified staff to stay competitive. Make sure the processes you use to identify top candidates (and to retain them) are on target with your business’ goals.
  3. Look into cloud services. If you’re still running your office primarily on paper, now is a great time to look into moving as much as possible to online services that offer bookkeeping, invoicing, appointment-setting and recordkeeping. Not only will it help streamline your processes, but it can also help free up space and eliminate clutter in your work areas.
  4. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage for your needs. Your business undergoes a lot of changes year in and year out – some major and some subtle. And those changes can leave you open to losses you might not have anticipated – or planned for. Reviewing your insurance coverage every year is a smart way to plan for those possibilities so you can avoid financial upsets that could force you to close up shop. Insurance isn’t just for physical property; many businesses benefit from business interruption insurance that covers potential losses in the event the company has to suspend operations due to a natural disaster, power failure or other event. It’s a surprisingly affordable option that can provide you with additional peace of mind in addition to necessary financial protection.

Do you have enough insurance for your small business?

If you’ve been wondering about your business interruption insurance or other coverage options for your company, Financial Wellness Month is the ideal time to dig in and find out more. Call Basi Insurance Services at 877-590-4826 and have your insurance coverage reviewed. It’s quick, and the time invested could wind up saving you from a devastating loss later on.

Seven Simple Tips to Make Holiday Travel Safer, Less Stressful


The holiday season is here, and for millions of Americans, that means traveling far and wide (or sometimes just a few hours away) to visit family and loved ones. Traveling can be lots of fun – but it can also be a little nerve-wracking, especially if you’re not prepared. Here are a few simple travel and home safety steps you can take to stay safe and reduce risks while you’re away from home this season:

  • First, don’t post your travel plans on social media. Studies show thieves keep a close watch on what’s being shared online so they know which homes are empty (and easier to target). Be selective in sharing information at work and among your friends as well. Even though your contacts may be trustworthy, there’s always the chance your info could be overheard or passed on to someone who’s not.
  • If you’re driving a long distance, take your car in for a quick service and checkup to avoid breakdowns, especially if the weather is snowy or icy.
  • Keep a first aid kit in your car along with a few warm blankets and some flares. Make sure your phone is charged before heading out, and let others know of your travel plans and route.
  • At home, use timers to turn your lights and TV on and off to give the appearance of being home. Today, there are plenty of “smart” timers you can program and operate using your phone so lights don’t always turn on and off at the same times each day.
  • Invest in a security system. There are plenty of DIY options that can significantly improve your home safety without draining your savings. Most include cameras that let you see your property – inside and out – from your laptop or even your phone. And some let you “answer” your door through a speaker system so it looks like you’re busy inside, even when you’re miles away.
  • Have a neighbor pick up your mail or ask the post office to suspend delivery while you’re gone. A helpful neighbor can also remove flyers from your porch or front door, park a spare car in your driveway and keep a general eye out for suspicious activity.
  • If you live in a snowy area, arrange for snow removal for your driveway and walkways ahead of time. Give the removal company your cell, and arrange to pay over the phone by credit card. No need to let them know you’re going away and shoveled walks and driveways make it look like you’re at home.

Holiday travel isn’t just fun; it’s also a great way to build memories that can last a lifetime. A little preparation is all it takes to maximize your enjoyment while minimizing stress and headaches.

Five Tips to Avoid Identity Theft on Cyber Monday

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Are you planning to shop online this Cyber Monday? You’ll have lots of company. Data shows more than 120 million shoppers took to the internet on Cyber Monday in 2016, cashing in on more than $3.45 billion in bargain-priced goods – and there’s a good chance those numbers will be surpassed this year.

Before you start making your lists and planning your own bargain-shopping spree, you might want to do a little security planning to make sure your credit card number and other personal information are well protected. After all, shoppers aren’t the only ones who will be hitting those e-tailers in droves; cybercriminals will also be out in full force with all sorts of tricks to help them steal your identity and rack up tons of charges in your name. Here’s how you can help thwart their plans and avoid identity theft this Cyber Monday:

  • Strengthen those passwords. Too many people use easy-to-guess passwords for their bank account, credit cards, email accounts and shopping sites, making it easy for them to become targets for identity theft. Before shopping online this year, ramp up your password strategy with these tips from ConnectSafely.org.
  • Keep passwords private. Never share them with friends, and try to use a different password for each bank account, credit card site, and shopping portal you visit. That way, if thieves manage to steal your information from one site, they won’t be able to use it to log in to another.
  • Steer clear of public WiFi. Shopping from the comfort a local coffee shop or library may sound like a good idea, but public WiFi comes with its own set of security issues, making it easy for thieves to steal your personal information. Instead, shop from your own internet connection at home or invest in a portable “WiFi hotspot” designed to give you a secure connection wherever you are.
  • Limit your cards. Use just one credit card for your online shopping. With just one account, it’s easy to spot unusual activity and errant charges so you can act quickly to protect yourself (and your money). Ask your card issuer about virtual credit card numbers designed to shield your real account number.
  • Skip the credit cards. Instead, invest in a gift card and use it for all your Cyber Monday purchases. With a gift card, your credit cards will be protected. Just be sure to register the card on its website and use a unique password for the site.

For year-round identity theft protection, consider investing in identity theft insurance. Policies are affordable, and they’re designed to give you plenty of protection as well as that all-important peace of mind. Call Basi Insurance Services at 877-590-4826 to learn more.

Simple Tips to Keep You Healthy This Flu Season


Flu season is here, and that means millions of men, women, and kids will become ill – some of them seriously. In fact, during flu season, about 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S., and about 36,000 people die as a result of their infections, according to data from Harvard Medical School. Flu (or influenza) is a viral infection, and each year, there are several strains or “varieties” of the flu virus. The good news: Most viruses are of one or two primary strains, and each year, vaccines are developed to combat those strains to help prevent infections. Still, not everyone gets a vaccine, and even those who are vaccinated may already be infected or may be infected by a strain that’s not “covered” by that year’s flu shot. So what can you do to reduce your risks of becoming infected – and to prevent spreading the infection to others? Here are five flu prevention tips to help you stay healthy:

  • Next to getting a flu vaccine, one of the best steps for flu prevention is to wash your hands well and often. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes in your purse or gym bag for added protection.
  • Get lots of rest. When you sleep, your body repairs itself, and that means when you get the rest you need, your body is in a much better position to fight off an invading flu virus. Since it gets darker earlier this time of year, it’s the perfect time to improve your sleep habits and set a regular bedtime routine. Your body will thank you for it all year round.
  • Eat healthy – and drink lots of water. Good nutrition is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system, and fluids help your body rid itself of toxins for optimal health.
  • Teach your children good flu hygiene, like sneezing into their shoulder, not their hands, and make sure they have plenty of facial tissues in their backpacks. For older kids, slip a bottle of hand sanitizer in as well.
  • Wipe handrails, keyboards, phones and other commonly-used items with antibacterial wipes to prevent picking up the virus from an infected surface. Keeping wipes on a counter, bedside table, desk or other easily-accessible spot makes it easy for everyone in your family (and at work) to keep surfaces free from germs.

The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for nearly every person 6 months of age and older. To minimize your risks of catching the flu, ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated this flu season and follow the above tips to prevent infection. And if you develop any symptoms of the flu, call your doctor right away to find out if you need an office visit. For many patients, a lot of rest and plenty of fluids may be just what the doctor orders.

Managing Opiod Use in Workers Compensation Claims


Employees typically have peace of mind that while a workplace injury may cause pain or disrupt their lives, they’ll be treated as quickly and effectively as possible through their employers’ workers’ compensation programs. Employees also know they’ll have treatment options that best fit their conditions and medical needs. One potential treatment, however, presents unique challenges for employers: opioids.1

Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.2 The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.3.

The Rise of Opioids in Workers’ Comp

Doctors and nurses must ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of one to 10, and treat it accordingly. That subjectivity, in part, has given rise to the over-prescription of opioids. “Historically, opioids were used appropriately to alleviate pain associated with cancer and similar severe pain conditions. Over time, physicians prescribed opioids for far less severe pain conditions. The resulting rise in availability has also contributed to the current epidemic in the United States,” said Maureen McCarthy, SVP and Manager, Workers’ Comp Field Claims, Liberty Mutual Insurance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nearly half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve prescription opioids – in 2015, there were 15,000 prescription-related opioid deaths1.

Its impact is also being felt in the workers’ comp space. Seventy percent of injured workers take some form of an opioid painkiller – and workers’ comp claims involving opioids cost, on average, $20,000 more than claims without.1

Employers’ Proactive Approach

So what can employers do to address this exposure? The key points are to have a Drug Free Workplace Program and to work with healthcare benefits providers and worker’s compensation carriers.

Drug Free Workplace Programs are cost-effective programs that can help address drug impairment in the workplace. Effective programs should consist of these 5 components:

  1. A clear, written policy. The program can also include a prescription drug workplace policy. (Consult with your company’s legal team to ensure all federal and state-specific guidelines are reflected in your policy).
  2. Employee education including (but not limited to) employee training that address topics such as being informed at the point of prescribing (are there non-opioid prescriptions that can be used?) and how opioid medication may affect their work.
  3. Supervisor training. With the changes in drug use over the past several years, it is important for managers to be current on their workplace policy for prescription drug use, understanding potential signs of impairment, and the updated process and scope of drug testing.
  4. An employee assistance program. It is in the employer’s best interest to identify opioid abuse and to support confidential access to treatment.
  5. Drug testing. Drug tests can be perceived as being highly intrusive, but they can be invaluable tools for preventing drug-related incidents and reducing risk.

Company healthcare benefits providers and worker’s compensation carriers are critical to employee safety and prevention programs for prescription opioid use. Working closely with these important partners helps employers understand the extent of opioid use and the need for programs to prevent and manage opioid use. Find out what your provider’s/carrier’s program of opioid management is and whether they utilize Prescription Benefit Manager’s (PBMs) technology to identify “flags” when prescription medicine abuse or misuse is occurring.

The prescription opioid epidemic – overprescribing, misuse, abuse, and overdose – is impacting the workplace. Evidence demonstrates serious risk to employees and substantial costs for employers.4 But there are proactive steps that can be taken to try and prevent your employees from becoming a statistic.

  1. Risk Insurance – Treating Injuries without Employer Pain: Managing the Challenges of Opioids and Marijuana (July 2017) http://riskandinsurance.com/treating-injuries-without-employer-pain-managing-challenges-opioids-marijuana/
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse – Addressing America’s Fentanyl Crisis (April 2017)
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse – “All Scientific Hands on Deck” to End the Opioid Crisis (May 2017)
  4. National Safety Council – The Proactive role employers can take: Opioids in the workplace – http://www.nsc.org/RxDrugOverdoseDocuments/proactive-role-employers-can-take-opioids-in-the-workplace.pdf

Medicare Enrollment Period Offers a Great Opportunity for Financial Planning


Do you have Medicare? Then mark your calendars, because the fall enrollment period is about to begin. This year, the open enrollment period starts on October 15th and ends on December 7th. Miss that deadline, and you could be facing a penalty. What should you do if you have Medicare? Review your current plan and decide if you want to change your provider or your coverage. And even if you’re happy with your current plans, you should still review all your available options to ensure you’re getting the best value. After all, some experts say average healthcare costs will be about $220,000 during retirement, so a little planning now can save you a lot in the future.

Unless you’re an accountant or a personal finance wonk, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not exactly looking forward to delving into the nitty-gritty details of Medicare. But hey – since you’re already in “financial review mode,” why not take advantage of that mindset to do a little more financial planning to make sure your finances are in good order? A little planning now can help with taxes, help avoid Medicare-related penalties, and provide you with some much-needed peace of mind to face the holiday season and start the new year. Here are four steps to take now:

  • Focus on your required minimum distributions (RMDs): If you have a 401K or IRA, you’ll probably need to start taking distributions by the time you reach age 70 ½ years of age (if you’re still working at that time, the rules can be different). At some income levels, the RMD might bump you into a higher tax bracket. Now is a good time to plan tax-friendly strategies that can help you keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible. Talking with a financial planner is the best way to minimize your tax burden without incurring RMD penalties.
  • Review your beneficiaries: Make sure your will, IRA, and other accounts have the proper beneficiaries listed, and crosscheck all your documents to avoid potential discrepancies. Births, deaths, divorces, and other life events can have an impact on your financial planning, and it can be easy to overlook a change in beneficiaries. Reviewing documents on a routine basis is important to ensure your documents reflect your true wishes.
  • Plan for windfalls: If you plan to sell a home or business, the revenue can have a major impact on your tax bill, and you could wind up triggering a Medicare surtax normally reserved for high earners. The same is true if you withdraw a large sum from your retirement savings to fund an expensive purchase like a family trip. Again, working with a financial planner or CPA can help you minimize your tax burden by recharacterizing your income and gifting some of your assets.
  • Think about long-term care needs: Long-term care can cost tens of thousands of dollars each year. Planning for those needs now is important to ensure you receive the care you need when you need it. Annuities can be a great investment tool for long-term care planning. Ask your Basi agent about annuity products that suit your own planning needs.

One more tip: The end of the year is also a good time to review your insurance needs. At Basi Insurance, our agents are ready to help you make important financial decisions that can help you enjoy your retirement years. To learn more about annuities and other insurance products, call Basi Insurance at 877-590-4826.