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23 Apr
0

Important Facts about Identity Breach

TRTA Update on Identity Breach

Your Personal Information Has Been Leaked, Learn What You Should do to Protect Yourself and Others you Know

Many TRS retired and active members are now receiving a letter explaining that their identity has been exposed on a public web site controlled by the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs. Many people have contacted TRTA asking what this means and what they need to do. Below is a brief recap of what you need to know.

Your Personal Identity has been Leaked to the Public. Take Action to Protect Yourself!

  • Information about your identity was transferred from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to the Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller);
  • Though the Comptroller received this information from TRS on an isolated computer connection and internal server not accessible to the public, the information was somehow moved to a public server in the Comptroller’s office (details on why and how have not yet been disclosed);
  • That information remained exposed on the Office of the Comptroller’s public web site for over a year;
  • TRTA has inquired as to whether or not the information was actually viewed or downloaded by anyone visiting that public site, but this question has not been answered by the Comptroller’s office;
  • The personal information that was leaked on this web site includes the name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, and Social Security number of almost every member record (active and retired) in the Teacher Retirement System, Employee Retirement System, and Texas Workforce Commission;
  • The Comptroller’s office told TRTA that personal bank account numbers were NOT exposed in this data leak;
  • The Comptroller notified the media about this issue, and then established an informational web site, www.txsafeguard.org, as well as a toll-free hotline to call for information;
  • The toll-free number is reported to only explain whether or not a person’s identity was part of the list that was publicly exposed;
  • The Comptroller’s office then started mailing letters to everyone who was exposed in this information leak;
  • Approximately 85,000 letters are mailed everyday;
  • There are over 3.5 million people who have been exposed in this data leak;
  • It will take some time before everyone who has been exposed in this data leak will receive the letter;
  • The Comptroller’s office has explained to TRTA that 95 percent, or more, of ALL TRS RECORDS, INCLUDING ACTIVE AND RETIRED MEMEBRS WERE EXPOSED IN THE DATA LEAK;
  • TRTA members and all TRS retirees and active employees are urged to visit www.txsafeguard.org for information on how to protect your identity;
  • The web site explains that people exposed in this leak may 1.)Sign up for free 90-day fraud monitoring with the three credit bureaus (these bureaus are likely to try and sell you some I.D. Guard service), 2.)Sign up with the discounted I.D. Guard service marketed by Experian, OR CSIdentity;
  • TRTA does not endorse either of these products, but we can confirm that they are providing deep discounts for at least one-year of service;
  • TRTA Member Benefits Committee has reviewed information about CSIdentity and determined that this program is endorsed by other retired educator and state employee groups around the country and that they have been providing identity protection for a number of years (this is also the company that we asked to provide information to our TRTA State Convention attendees last week in San Antonio after we first heard about the security leak);
  • Signing up for either Experian or CSIdentity on a monthly or annual basis should negate the need to call all three credit bureaus for fraud monitoring, BUT the Comptroller’s web site says you may want to do the identity protection program AND the 90-day fraud monitoring program (TRTA is checking into why it is necessary to do both);
  • Be advised, signing-up for either of these two companies will lead you to additional web sites selling additional services…consider all the facts and benefits when purchasing any products from either of these two companies beyond the discounted I.D. Protection package;
  • These other services may not offer anything more than what you need with the discounted protection plan;
  • While the Comptroller’s office will not confirm that any information has been taken from their web site, they have advised TRTA to explain to members that people should respond to this security failure as though someone HAS taken your personal information;
  • Many other questions you may have can be answered on the www.txsafeguard.org web site.

TRTA is working to get more information about this situation and how it may impact TRS members. A recent news report said that many identity thieves may wait 18 to 24 months before using identity information they stole. TRS retired and active members MUST remain vigilant with their credit report and with any suspicious phone calls, emails, or credit accounts being opened in their name that they were unaware of.

It has also been reported that scam artists are already at work trying to think of ways to take advantage of this situation. One report says that scammers are calling people purporting to represent state officials from ERS, TRS or the Comptroller’s office. BE ADVISED, NO ONE FROM THE COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE, TRS, ERS, OR ANY OTHER STATE AGENCY IS CALLING TO ASK YOU QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS SITUATION OR ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.

Finally, there are thousands of TRTA members, active school employees, and other signed up to receive the Inside Line; however, there are thousands more who are not! If you think you may know a friend or loved one that has received information about this leak of information from the Office of the Comptroller’s office, you may want to visit with them to ensure they understand the severity of these circumstances.

TRTA wants you to be protected. Hopefully, we will soon learn that no one viewed or downloaded this information off the Comptroller’s public web site, but until that question is answered we need to protect ourselves.

We deeply regret the concern, frustration, anger, and disappointment that many of you have expressed to our TRTA office. We know this is a very troubling situation and there are still MANY questions that are unanswered. We will continue to press for the answers you have asked, but for now please visit www.txsafeguard.org for information on how to protect your identity. You may want to visit our TRTA Facebook page (www.facebook.com search TRTA), as well as we will post news stories and share feedback with how this situation is impacting you and those you know.

Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association. If you are not a member but want to join, please call our office at 1.800.880.1650 or visit our web site at www.trta.org.

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22 Apr
0

Bill Eliminating TRS DB Plan Heard Next Week

Defined Benefit Plan Under Attack

Legislative Plan Calls for the End of TRS Benefit as We Know It

The House Committee on Pensions, Investments and Financial Services (PIFS) will have a public hearing on HB 2506, a bill that calls for the elimination of the state defined benefit plan provided for employees of the Texas Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and the Employee Retirement System (ERS). While this legislation does NOT change benefits for current retirees, it would eliminate the defined benefit for future retirees and virtually nullify any attempts to provide current retirees a benefit increase now or ever again. TRTA is prepared to voice strong opposition to this legislative proposal.

HB 2506 is sponsored by Representative Warren Chisum (R-Pampa). TRTA has already met with Representative Chisum’s staff during the session expressing our opposition to this bill. The proposal to eliminate the TRS defined benefit retirement plan is a direct contradiction to TRTA’s core organizational value…that is the preservation of the traditional retirement plan for all TRS members.

TRTA is interested to learn what arguments will be offered for undermining one of the state’s most successful programs, especially in the case of the Teacher Retirement System. As TRTA members already know, the TRS pension fund provides retirement security to over 1.3 million Texans, it is responsible for the creation of over 91,000 full-time Texas jobs, and it provides a higher level of benefit than federal Social Security program at a lower overall cost. In short, TRS is a strong economic engine and a job-creating juggernaut for Texas.

The reality is that eliminating the TRS defined benefit plan is bad public policy. TRS Texas is the 6th largest pension plan in the country, the 17th largest plan in the world, it is well-funded, it is well-managed, and it is the bedrock of retirement security for Texas public education employees. TRTA will send a strong message to the House Pensions, Investments and Financial Services Committee that HB 2506 is bad for educators, bad for retirees, and bad for Texas.

The House PIFS Committee meeting on this legislation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, 2011 in room E2.014 in the Texas Capitol. The time is set for “Upon Final Adjournment of the Texas House,” which will be sometime in the afternoon. TRTA will work to find out more details about next week’s schedule in an effort to provide a more definitive time. Local TRTA members wishing to attend can call the office on Monday, April 25th for more information. TRTA members who are not able to come to Austin may want to watch the hearing on their computer by visiting the Texas House website at www.house.state.tx.us.

Thank you for your support and interest in protecting the TRS pension trust fund.

 

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22 Apr
0

TRTA Action Alert: Support Senate Version of the Texas Budget

TRTA Action Alert

 

Support the Senate Budget Recommendation

The Texas Senate has recommended a budget plan that is far better to TRS retirees than the version passed by the Texas House. The Senate proposal was developed in large part by State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock). The highlights of Senator Duncan’s proposal to protect TRS funding are provided below.

TRTA members can now participate in the new email advocacy campaign by clicking here! This email action advocacy campaign provides information to your Senator about the Duncan proposal to protect TRS and that the Texas Retired Teachers Association supports these recommendations.

Senator Robert Duncan’s “TRS Protection” Budget Proposal (as part of the Texas Senate substitute for HB 1)

TRS-Care Health Insurance Program

  • Fund TRS-Care in FY 2012 at 1 percent allowing TRS and the State to show a “maintenance of effort” in qualifying for additional federal health care dollars available through the retiree reinsurance program;
  • Fund TRS-Care in FY 2013 at 0.5 percent (the federal dollars are expected to be exhausted by that time);
  • Provide budget language with the intent to not increase TRS-Care premiums for the coming biennium;
  • Sweep any excess budget dollars available through the annual “settle-up” from/to TRS in the budget process back to TRS-Care;
  • Provide for a study to be conducted in the interim that analyzes the TRS-Care program and offer suggestions on how to maintain efficiencies and implement new cost savings measures designed to protect the TRS-Care program;
  • This proposal adds $134 million back to TRS-Care funding for the biennium with the intent that there will be NO premium increase in FY 2012 or FY 2013!

TRS pension trust fund

  • Provide for a state contribution to the TRS pension trust fund in FY 2012 at 6.0 percent;
  • Provide for a state contribution to the TRS pension trust fund in FY 2012 at 6.4 percent;
  • Temporarily suspends the requirement that the state contribution must be at least equal or greater than the active member contribution (FY 2012);
  • Maintains the active member contribution to the TRS pension trust fund for FY 2012 and FY 2013 at 6.4 percent;
  • This proposal will NOT make the fund actuarially sound, and it will NOT provide an increase to retirees, BUT it WILL restore over $100 million in pension trust fund contributions helping the system get to actuarial soundness sooner than later.

Again, all TRTA members should participate in this advocacy campaign. Please click here to send an email to your Texas Senator asking for their support when the budget comes up for a vote by the full Senate next week.

As always, TRTA appreciates your hard work and commitment to our legislative and organizational efforts. You are the difference maker. By giving a portion of your valuable time to support our legislative outreach, we are making a difference for all TRS retirees. Thank you!

If you are not a member of the Texas Retired Teachers Association but would like to join in our efforts to protect the retirement benefits and the TRS-Care health insurance program, please contact our office at 1.800.880.1650.

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