Q: I read your recent column about Michigan’s new retirement income tax law. With the new law officially going into effect after the start of the 2023 tax season, should I file my taxes later this year?
A: You are right. Due to some esoteric legislative procedures, the new tax law didn’t officially become law until February 13, 2024, even though it was passed way back in March 2023 and applies to the 2023 tax season.
Given this, along with some very slow tax software updates, it may affect those who filed their state tax return before February 13th. Specifically, it impacts those born in 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956.
Fortunately, the State of Michigan has said tax returns filed under the old law will be reviewed using the new law. You won’t need to file an amended return to get the new law’s benefits. If all goes according to plan, they will just send you a tax refund, if needed.
Q: We’re concerned with my mother’s ability to safely handle her online access to her financial accounts. We are worried about her falling for “phishing scams” that might allow a scammer to gain access to her accounts. What can we do to make things safer for her?
A: For uninitiated readers, a phishing scam is when you are tricked into giving out your login credentials or other personally-identifiable information. This could be a fake email asking for you to update your online profile or even doing a simple Google search that takes you to a fake website.
My general advice falls under the headings of training and prevention.
On the training front, I’d suggest you set up bookmarks on your mom’s browser that links her to the official websites for her financial accounts. Also, try to have her only use her iPad or iPhone’s official apps to get into her accounts.
One scam I recently heard about describes credible-looking, but fake, websites that trick account holders to sign in. When their login fails, it warns them that their account has been compromised and directs them to call for “help.” How would the account holder find such a fake website? By searching directly on Google for their bank or brokerage firm or by clicking a link in a fake email. Using the official app or by clicking on their browser’s bookmark can help.
On the prevention front, you might consider attaching your cell phone number as her two-factor authentication device. If she falls for a phishing scam, at least you’ll be there to block the attempt.
Finally, if she works with an advisor, see if they can set things up to prevent online money movements or trading activity. It’s possible to make her online account basically for viewing purposes only. When she needs to do something with her money, she’d just call her advisor.