If you’re like most of us, your financial information is no longer just tucked away in a home desk drawer or in a small safe. You probably trust a wide variety of organizations and professionals with your financial information through activities such as online banking and bill-paying, making online purchases, storing data, communicating via email and fax, and yes, sending your information for tax-return preparation.
We’d like you to know that Honeck O’Toole goes above and beyond to make sure you can trust us with your information. Here are three actions we take each day to keep your information confidential and safe.
The tax software we use is leading edge, with all the bells and whistles we need to maintain accurate, thorough, efficient records in a safe manner.
Years ago, we made a major investment in Lacerte® Professional Tax Software (owned by Intuit, also the owner of QuickBooks and Quicken).
All Honeck O’Toole business and personal returns are prepared through this software. This is a great convenience for you because it makes it very easy for us to integrate your QuickBooks records with our tax-return system and it increases our efficiency (saving you money on our services). We continue to upgrade this software regularly because even though it’s very expensive, it’s worth every penny for its robust tools and data integrity. We back up our data every day.
We keep all our records in-house, including yours.
Many CPA firms send client information to India and across the United States over the web because they outsource tax-return preparation and other services. But we don’t.
Your return is prepared only by Honeck O’Toole staff here in the Portland, Maine office. Our team includes qualified professionals who have been with us for many years. Each one of us is dedicated to keeping all information confidential and safe.
All our information is stored in our Internal server with a firewall; not stored on the Internet.
You decide where your information goes.
If we ever do need to share your financial information with another advisor or party, such as your attorney or mortgage lender — we are required to get your written permission first.
To help you keep your own information confidential and safe in your business and at home, we offer the following recommendations:
- Be sure to use password-protected websites.
When you go online to do banking, pay bills, manage your retirement account or conduct any other money-related activities. Ideally, you should change your passwords often. In addition, take advantage of bank security services. For example, Wells Fargo offers a separate debit card for making Internet purchases. You can transfer money from your regular accounts to this “online-only” debit account for one-time purchases…keeping potential hackers from accessing your main accounts.
- Keep updated paper records in a safe place, just in case.
Electronic transactions are great, but… paper records can be a lifesaver if your computer is attacked. Recently our newsletter writer was attacked by the “Internet Security 2010” malware virus, and it crippled her laptop and all the records stored within it. Luckily she had paper records of all her financial information, including a secret password sheet. Plus she had been backing up all her information, including her QuickBooks files, on an external hard drive (see below).
- Use a backup system daily…or at least weekly.
As noted above, backing up your records is the only way to make sure you can access your valuable information at a moment’s notice should anything happen to your computer. Think of the worst-case scenario: how would you get your data in the event of a flood, fire, burglary… or of course, computer crash. You really should make backup a daily routine. Backup methods range from online password-protected sites (QuickBooks offers an online system) to your own external hard drive stored in a safe area. If you search online for external hard drives or visit a nearby electronics store, you’ll find a variety of options that work very smoothly with your computer.
Our financial articles are presented by Honeck O’Toole, Maine-based certified public accountants. If you ever have questions about your money’s safety, please email us or call 207-774-0882.