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Identity theft is becoming a greater concern as our personal information becomes easier for thieves to access.  While you can’t stop someone from hacking your employer’s or your favorite retailer’s data centers, there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of having your information stolen and minimize the potential losses if a theft occurs.

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Identity Theft

Online Data-Be smart when you’re online.  Social media is a great way for thieves to learn more about you.  Take steps to limit the amount of personal information you share (employer, where you’ve lived, family members, etc) and make sure that your privacy settings limit what others can see about you.  It might be okay for your friends to see what you’ve been up to, but you don’t want just anyone being able to see your social media feeds.  You don’t want to give potential thieves a heads up, so consider posting those family vacation pictures after you return.

When you make online purchases, resist the temptation to store your credit card online with that company.  While it will make repeat purchases easier, it leaves your information with their data center and we have all seen in the news how vulnerable that can be.

You may want to do an online search of your name from time to time.  By doing so, you’ll be able to see what others can see and if someone has created other online profiles with your name.

I recently read an article online (Time Article) about a website that provides anyone with the ability to pull up your name, age, past residences, past phone numbers, and others with whom you may have been associated (family and friends).  If you see a site such as this, you may want to take a few minutes to go through their opt out process to help keep your information private.

Passwords- There are so many places that require passwords that people often create one that is easy to remember and use it for every site they can.  The problem is that easily remembered passwords are also easily hacked, and passwords used on multiple sites create more opportunity for thieves.  Take the time to create complex passwords and update them every few months.  Also, don’t use the same password for all websites.  If you’d like to have all of your passwords in one, easily-accessible place, consider doing some research for a password manager.

You may want to contact your credit card and service companies to ask that they put a password on your account.  Ideally, they should require this password to provide information over the phone about your account.  This limits someone from getting your credit card number and having a new card issued to their address.  If someone can easily find your family members online, they’ll be able to find the answers to traditional authentication questions such as your mother’s maiden name.  When possible, choose to create your own authentication question.

Email- First, don’t open an email from someone you don’t know.  Nobody is giving you $1,000,000.  Second, don’t click a link or open an attachment, even from people you know, if it seems suspicious.  Your friends don’t normally send a web link to you with only a comment such as “hey check this out.” We’re all busy, but don’t be too busy to carefully read and consider what you’re doing with an email.

Also, take the time to periodically look at the folders you have in your email account to make sure nothing new has been added.  I’ve had several clients who had their email accounts hacked.  The hackers set up a separate folder in their email account and started emailing companies in an attempt to get the client’s personal information or money.  Fortunately for my clients, nothing was stolen, but you can’t be too careful.

At home- A couple of easy steps to take at home are forwarding or freezing your mail delivery when you’re away from home and shredding your personal documents.  When you’re out of town, thieves can get your statements out of your mailbox and use those statements to forward phones, add on services to utilities, and have credit cards issued to a different address.  Taking a few minutes to go to USPS online could save you countless hours of fixing problems down the road.

Make sure to shred your personal documents.  Personal documents aren’t just those with your account number, birthdate, or Social Security number listed.  Nearly all the offers you receive in the mail for things such as credit cards, personal loans, or home loans have tracking information on them that a thief can use.  Those firms already have most of your personal information on file and the tracking numbers can help a thief skip a few steps while getting credit under your name.

To help members of our community prevent identity theft, Partnership Wealth Management will be hosting its 6th Annual Shred Day on Saturday, April 22nd from 10am to 12pm at the Canton Safeway parking lot near the smokestack (2610 Boston St., Balto.).  A company will come with a truck that shreds personal documents on site.  This free event is a great way to dispose of unwanted, personal documents in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. Plus, the paper is recycled after the event!

Monitor Your Accounts- While it’s important to take steps to help prevent data theft, you also need to monitor your accounts for unauthorized activity.  Yes, this means reading your statements.  It can also mean using a service that allows you to review your account activity weekly.    Often someone will test your credit card accounts by charging a small amount a few times to verify that your account is active.  You won’t notice charges less than $10 as they test your account if you’re not regularly watching your activity.  By the time a thief starts charging large amounts, it will be too late.  While charges are often credited back by your credit card company, not all charges will be.  Plus, it could take you hours of your time to file a claim and follow up with them to ensure the charges are taken off your account.

Credit Agencies-Take advantage of your free annual credit report.  This will let you see if anyone has been adding accounts under your identity.

You can also contact the credit bureaus to freeze or restrict your credit. That will help prevent someone from being able to take out a new credit line in your name.  As I recently learned with some of my clients, it can also restrict someone’s ability to open a new bank or investment account under your name.  Security freezes are not free. Each agency charges a fee for this service, unless you are already the victim of an identity theft.  The time and cost for setting these up are minimal compared to the time and cost of resolving identity theft.

The Benjamin Franklin axiom that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to identity theft.  Only you can take the precautions necessary to reduce the likelihood of identity theft, and a little time upfront could save you a significant amount of time, stress, and money in the long run.

The opinions voiced in this material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice to any individual.  This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor


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Office News

Light Night Canton Sponsorship-

We’re excited to be sponsors of Light Night Canton.  This is Baltimore’s 2nd year of hosting Light City and our neighborhood is joining in the fun.

Light Night Canton will be held at Dypski Park on Saturday, April 1st (no fooling!) and is a free interactive night of light, music and family fun!

In celebration with Light City Baltimore 2017, Light Night Canton will feature Glow in the Dark Yoga with Kristi Cory, music by DJ Stylo of mGrooves Entertainment, a lighted costume contest & parade, surprise performers, kid’s crafts and more.

Learn more on the Facebook page:  Light Night Canton

11th Annual Wine & Chocolate Sponsor-

The Women’s Law Center is having their 11th Annual Wine & Chocolate event on Wednesday, April 19th.  This is our 3rd year of sponsoring the most delicious event in town.  It is a great evening for a great cause.

Learn more about the 11th Annual Wine & Chocolate event.

Our 6th Annual Shred Day-

A busy April caps off with our 6th Annual Shred Day.  To help members of our community prevent identity theft, we will be hosting our 6th Annual Shred Day on Saturday, April 22nd from 10am to 12pm at the Canton Safeway parking lot near the smokestack (2610 Boston St., Balto.).

A company will come with a truck that shreds personal documents on site.  This free event is a great way to dispose of unwanted, personal documents in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner. Plus, the paper is recycled after the event!

Contact us if you’d like additional information.

Office Closings

April 6th

I will be out of the office for jury duty (lucky me!).  While I will periodically check email, Heidi will be in the office that day.  If you have an urgent, account-related need and cannot reach someone at the office, please call TD Ameritrade at 1-800-431-3500.

April 14th & 17th: 

Our office, the markets, and the financial firms we use will be closed on Friday, April 14th for Good Friday.  We will also be closed on Monday, April 17th.  I will, periodically, check email on April 17th.  If you have an urgent, account-related need and cannot reach someone at the office on Monday, please call TD Ameritrade at 1-800-431-3500.

April 27th & 28th: 

Our office will be closed on April 27th and 28th while Heidi and I take a delayed-anniversary trip.  If you have an urgent, account-related need those days, please call TD Ameritrade at 1-800-431-3500.

Just a Reminder

We are always accepting donations for the local animal shelters – toys, tennis balls, collars, leashes, food, cat litter, cardboard trays, office supplies, cleaning supplies, towels, mats, washcloths, etc. We will accept donations Monday-Friday between 9am & 5pm.

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Elise enjoying an Agua Mule.


March weather is quite fickle. We had a long stretch of weather in February that was around 70 degrees only to get more snow on one day in March than the season’s cumulative snow fall through February.  Thankfully, we bought Elise a sled before winter to beat the rush.

We tried some downhill sledding, but conditions didn’t make for much fun.  So what’s a parent to do?  I ran around a field dragging her until my heart nearly pounded out of my chest.  The laughter I heard from her made it all worth it.

After sledding, Elise drank her first cup of hot chocolate.  I’m pretty sure she liked it considering that weeks later she’s still bringing it up.

Fenway and Roxy are doing well after their dental work.  While we’ve done a great job of caring for them in many ways, we didn’t brush their teeth often enough.   Lesson learned.  Frequent teeth brushing is certainly preferred to dental work (and dental bills)- even if the dogs don’t quite understand the trade off.

fiduciary for gay couples in Annapolis, fiduciary for gay couples in ArlingtonI hope you enjoyed this month’s newsletter.

Best Wishes,


Woody Derricks, CFP®



CA Insurance License #0C4021


Available by Appointment in Alexandria & DC

As a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), Partnership Wealth Management is committed to providing our clients with financial planning and wealth management services to help them make the most of their investments. At Partnership Wealth Management, we have a long history of working with the LGBT community. Among the many services we offer are financial planning and estate planning strategies for gay and lesbian couples. Financial planning is an important part of preparing for the future; contact us today to get started.

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification mark CFP® in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

2809 Boston Street, Suite 509

Baltimore, MD 21224