Beth Jacobs | June 12th, 2019
Fraudsters are just as prevalent today as they ever have been. They didn’t disappear with Frank Abagnale, like in Catch Me If You Can. They lurk in broad daylight, hide in your inboxes, and are on the other end of your computer and telephone lines. So we want you ready to protect yourself when the need arises.
Who is most at risk?
Statistics point out that recent retirees and people in their 50s and 60s are most at risk. Also at higher risk are single individuals and those living alone, like widows and divorcees. Beware, though, it can happen to ANYONE, so it’s best to apply the Boy Scouts’ motto and always be prepared.
What tactics do fraud perpetrators use?
- Fake authenticity: Maybe it’s a fake school diploma framed on the wall. Maybe it’s a call claiming to be the IRS…or an email that looks like it’s from your boss, friend, or family member. Minor spelling changes allow malware and cyber crooks to sneak into your inbox and, if you’re not careful, plant viruses to steal any personal information saved on your computer.
- Speaking “Insurancais:” Insurance policies & legal contracts might as well be in a foreign language these days and hidden terms and conditions are very easy to hide in fine print. Take proposals home and read when you are not rushed, get second opinions, and make sure your long-term disability coverage doesn’t end after two years if its due to mental nervous disorder…Stress is the #1 cause of disability and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t get stressed! Make sure your investments aren’t loaded with transaction fees or hidden expenses. Know what you’re signing and know exactly what you’re buying. Some private placements can be illiquid and cause problems for required minimum distributions. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Disguised by Noble Pursuits: Fraudsters may look to be raising money for a charity, but in reality it’s for their own pockets. Good intentions are hard to distinguish these days, so make sure it is a reputable source that you trust before handing over your hard earned cash. Follow up with a Google search, make sure the spelling is the same. And if they ask you to make it out to them, personally, and not the charitable foundation, please run the other way.
How to keep yourself safe?
- Investigate yourself: This has two meanings – one, do your own background checks. Double check your professionals’ degrees with their universities, or an Advisor’s ADV and other public SEC documents online. Make sure the documents provided to you are the same documents filed with the SEC (https://adviserinfo.sec.gov) . Two, Google yourself, make sure your identity hasn’t be snitched or is being used by someone else.
- Phone a friend: Ask your friends who may be this advisor’s clients and have worked with him or her for many years whether they have been pleased with their success. If no one knows who this person or group is, likely they are not legit. Even if a friend uses a professional, it never hurts to pay attention.
- Take Caution: One of the first steps of working with a financial advisor is pulling together all your financial information. Be careful how you send this. Confirm it is coming via a secure emailing platform, encryption mail, Dropbox, or DocuSign. Do not provide your social security number or bank account information to someone that calls you just asking for it. Which leads me to my next point…
- Stranger Danger: Never send money to a random stranger that calls your phone. Your grandson’s friend isn’t going to call for your grandson asking for thousands of dollars to get home from Europe. So don’t fall for it! Please use caution. Also, the IRS will not call and ask for money! And I’ve personally received these fraudulent robo-IRS calls. They are scary and intimidating, but stay strong and block that call. Contact your accountant to verify all is in good order if that makes you feel better. If the IRS actually has an issue with you, they will send you written notification.
- Know Your Credit Score: Monitor your credit and make sure drastic changes haven’t occurred over night. Most banks offer free monitoring now, so take advantage of it. If you were a South Carolina tax payer in 2012, more than likely your Social Security number is out on the dark web due to a data breach. So stay vigilant.
- Strong Logins: Cyber breaches have become all too common as headlines, so strengthen your passwords. Single word or simple easy passwords such as PetName123 or childsnameDOB or heaven forbid Password1, isn’t going to cut it. Even if the online site accepts it, you shouldn’t use it. Use a saying to relate to random numbers and characters or use a password manager that can help you keep track. Also consider two-factor authentication, where they have to send you a code to your cell phone via a text or to your email before you can sign on.
- Cyber Security: Update and run malware and spyware scans on your computers. Make back-ups to protect youself from ransomware. Password protect or encrypt sensitive documents. Don’t click on links or attachments in emails from unknown senders.
Cyber and physical crime is all too common. And even if you are careful, sometimes financial fraudsters get a win. We hope with increased knowledge awareness and education, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your financial data.