Ways to Avoid Financial Scams

According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of adults age 70 and older fall for online scammers. Here are some tips to remember about some of the latest frauds:1

  • Medicare does not employ “sales representatives.”
  • Apple and Microsoft do not sell virus protection software for your computer.
  • There is no African prince from Nigeria who needs your help (and your money).

 

 

Another recent scam hails from people posing as Amazon customer service representatives on the phone. If you Google a customer support phone number for Amazon, there are a lot of fake ones out there. If you call one of the fake numbers, a representative might ask you for your bank account or credit card information. The best way to contact Amazon is via live chat on Amazon.com. If you need the general support telephone number, it’s 888.280.4331.2

Be aware that scammers frequently prey on older adults. It’s important to remember that if you didn’t initiate the call, you can’t be sure you’re talking to a legitimate source — so don’t give out any personal information. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help deal with potential fraudsters:3

  • Don’t give the caller personal information, especially not your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you’ve verified who you’re talking to. If someone has contacted you, you can’t be sure who they are. It’s better if you initiate the call using the phone number printed on your statement.
  • Don’t trust a name or phone number. Con artists make up official-sounding names to make you trust them. To make their calls seem legitimate, scammers may use your local area code or one from Washington, D.C., so it appears on your caller ID like they’re calling from the government. In reality, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • If you’re ever suspicious about a scam related to your Social Security benefits, contact the Social Security Administration directly at 800.772.1213.

 

 

There also are scams that target people on a larger scale. Specifically, some financial services firms have become vulnerable by employees clicking on links provided by phishing emails. Once opened, hackers can use them as a gateway to access the firm’s client database. Recently, this new online financial scam has cost victims an average of about $130,000 per instance.4

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) implemented a new rule starting on Feb. 5 of this year. It gives brokers some protections so they may feel free to report the potential exploitation of an elderly client and even place a temporary hold on any account withdrawals the client may request if it seems suspicious. Furthermore, some states have adopted a North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) rule making it mandatory to report a suspicious incident.5

There are currently a couple of bills being considered in Congress that would provide liability protection for financial advisers, brokers and other financial professionals who report cases of suspected elder abuse.6 In fact, one amendment to a current securities rule requires brokers to request that clients provide contact information for a person they trust. This is so that the broker can alert that person if he or she thinks the older client might be a victim of fraud or even poor judgment due to mental decline.7

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Beth Kobliner. Jan. 25, 2018. “How can I protect my older parent from online scams?” http://www.bethkobliner.com/budget/protect-older-parent-online-scams/. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

2 CBS News. Feb. 20, 2018. “Amazon customer service scam targets your financial data.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-customer-service-scam-targets-your-financial-data/. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

3 Ari Lazerus. Federal Trade Commission. Jan. 26, 2018. “Scammers impersonate the Social Security Administration.” https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/01/scammers-impersonate-social-security-administration. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

4 Darla Mercado. CNBC. Feb. 2, 2018. “New online financial scam costs victims $130K per attack.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/new-online-financial-scam-costs-victims-130k-per-attack.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

5 Mark Schoeff Jr. Investment News. Jan. 30, 2018. “House approves legislation to help advisers combat senior exploitation.” http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180130/FREE/180139993/house-approves-legislation-to-help-advisers-combat-senior. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

6 Ibid.

7 Sarah O’Brien. CNBC. Jan. 30, 2018. “New broker rules aim to curb elder fraud.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/30/new-broker-rules-aim-to-curb-elder-fraud.html. Accessed Feb. 22, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Insights Into Cybercrime

Although it’s taken a back seat to domestic concerns over the past year, cybercrime is still on the rise. Attacks such as “Wannacry” shut down health care systems and businesses across the globe in 2017,1 and the World Economic Forum estimates cybercrimes cost the global economy about $445 billion a year. 2

It is a unifying issue that has countries large and small sharing resources and building defense mechanisms to thwart attacks.3

It’s easy to view hacking as something that impacts only large companies. However, data is a valuable commodity, whether it’s stolen from a home computer or a company’s customer database.

In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches in the U.S. alone. That may not sound like many, but those breaches yielded close to 179 million exposed consumer records. The Yahoo breach in October 2017 resulted in 3 billion compromised records.4

Because headlines focus more frequently on theft of personal data from corporations, it may seem like there’s nothing an individual person can do to prevent it. But we can and should deploy the protections cybersecurity experts recommend, such as using complex passwords and changing them often, installing and regularly updating anti-virus software, not clicking on suspicious links and being wary of paying bills and making other financial transactions on public Wi-Fi networks.5

Two of the biggest current cybercrime issues in the U.S. appear to be the prospect of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the use of targeted social media to influence voters with false news information. Several popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, have come under attack for not adequately policing participants and messages of hate, racism, terrorism and other forms of abuse.6

This year, the World Economic Forum announced the formation of The Global Centre for Cybersecurity. This effort is designed to facilitate faster, more effective information sharing between nations and private technology companies to help combat cybercrime. The center will focus on consolidating existing cybersecurity initiatives, creating a centralized library of cyber best practices, establishing a regulatory framework for cybersecurity and anticipating cybersecurity risk scenarios and solutions for the future.7

One of the proven ways to help protect our finances is through insurance. We protect our homes, our health, our cars and our businesses. It also may be worth considering ways to protect our future retirement income through the use of insurance products, such as annuities. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Danny Palmer. Zdnet.com. Jan. 26, 2018. “Ransomware: Is time running out for the biggest menace on the web?” http://www.zdnet.com/article/ransomware-is-time-running-out-for-the-biggest-menace-on-the-web/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

2 World Economic Forum. “Cybercrime.” https://www.weforum.org/projects/cybercrime. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 Statistica.com. “U.S. consumers and cyber crime – Statistics & Facts.” https://www.statista.com/topics/2588/us-consumers-and-cyber-crime/. Accessed Feb. 28, 2018.

5 Iowa State Bank. “Cyber Crime and How It Affects You.” https://iowastatebank.net/cyber-crime-and-how-it-effects-you/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

6 Aoife White. Bloomberg. Jan. 23, 2018. “Facebook Will ‘Do Better’ to Stem Abuse, Sandberg Vows.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-23/facebook-will-do-better-to-stem-internet-abuses-sandberg-vows. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

7 World Economic Forum. Jan. 24, 2018. “To Prevent a Digital Dark Age: World Economic Forum Launches Global Centre for Cybersecurity.” https://www.weforum.org/press/2018/01/to-prevent-a-digital-dark-age-world-economic-forum-launches-global-centre-for-cybersecurity/. Accessed Feb. 12, 2018.

Guarantees and protections provided by insurance products including annuities are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance carrier.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Digital Tools for Tax Season

Tax season is upon us. According to the IRS, about 90 percent of taxpayers now file their taxes electronically. The agency touts the service as more accurate, convenient and secure than paper claims, and people usually receive their tax refunds faster.

The IRS offers free tax filing assistance to filers who earn $54,000 a year or less, and people age 60 or older.1 For those who prefer to complete their own returns, there are several helpful resources at IRS.gov.

At the website, you can find an electronic copy of Publication 17, which provides the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. There also is an “Interactive Tax Assistant” that provides answers to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics, such as whether you need to file a return, who you can claim as a dependent and whether you’re eligible to claim an education credit.2

Once you’ve filed a return, you can monitor the status of a refund within 24 hours of IRS receipt using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. It is located at the IRS.gov website, or you can download the IRS2Go mobile app.3 For a general idea of when you’ll receive a refund based on when you submitted your return, check out the table here.4

If you have questions or would like help completing your taxes, we can refer you to one of the experienced tax professionals within our network. It’s a good idea to work collaboratively with your tax professional and your financial professional in order to help maximize opportunities for tax savings.

For a comparison and ratings of some of the most popular online tax services, check out PC magazine’s review of the “Best Tax Software of 2018.” The rundown includes H&R Block, TaxAct, TaxSlayer and Intuit TurboTax Deluxe, among others.5

While working to complete your tax return by the April 17 deadline, it’s a good time to start considering rules that will be changing for 2018. For example, deductibility of interest on home equity loans and lines of credit (HELOCs) will apply only on loans used to buy, build or substantially improve a home.6

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 IRS.gov. Feb. 6, 2018. “Six Reasons to E-file.” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/six-reasons-to-e-file. Accessed Feb. 6, 2018.

2 IRS.gov. Jan. 29, 2018. “IRS Tax Tips 2018-14: Check Out These Three Tools on IRS.gov.” https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USIRS/bulletins/1d6b25e. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

3 Ibid.

4 Isaac M. O’Bannon. CPA Practice Advisor. Dec. 28, 2017. “2018 IRS Income Tax Refund Chart – When Will I Get My Tax Refund?” http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12370552/2018-irs-income-tax-refund-chart-when-will-i-get-my-tax-refund. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

5 Kathy Yakal. PC. Feb. 9, 2018. “The Best Tax Software of 2018.” https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1904319,00.asp. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

6 Suzanne Woolley. Bloomberg. Jan. 29, 2018. “How to Game Next Year’s Taxes Now.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-29/eight-ways-to-prepare-for-the-new-tax-law. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Get Creative When Pre-Planning Funerals

Think about how much time we put into planning things like college, a wedding, moving to a new home, having a baby and retirement. Now think about how much time we put into planning for our death. For many people, it’s no time at all.

Perhaps you’ve got your estate plan documents in order, but how much time have you put into thinking through and planning for your funeral, burial or cremation? Unfortunately, by you not making these plans, they end up being thrown together at the last minute by bereaved friends and family. That is hardly the time for them to make significant financial and emotional decisions. As for the financial part, we may able to help. Consider earmarking funds for just this purpose and save them in a readily accessible account, or have these costs funded by a life insurance policy — if you are ready to talk about ways to set aside adequate funding, give our firm a call.

Today, the death industry is big business. The cost of a typical funeral in the U.S. ranges from $8,000 to $10,000. The cost of a casket alone can run from $2,000 to $10,000, although if you comparison shop you can find cheaper prices.1 For example, you can buy less expensive caskets online at places like Costco.2

If you want to help your family save on costs and avoid making emotional decisions, your pre-planning will go a long way. You don’t have to pre-purchase your own coffin, but you could shop around, create a plan for costs, bookmark your favorite options, and document ideas on how you’d like your demise handled. Consider it a guideline for your loved ones to help them make decisions when the time comes.

Once you embrace the idea of planning for your own death, it can become a satisfying exploration into your life, your quirks and individuality. As with nearly every challenge faced during their lifetime, baby boomers are getting creative about how they want their deaths handled. Ideas include custom-decorated caskets, green funerals, webcast streaming for people who can’t attend funeral services, as well as writing and/or videotaping their own obituaries.3 Some funerals encourage participants to share their own memories of the deceased by singing favorite songs, or reading personal letters or poems that reflect their feelings.

Some people who live environmentally conscious lifestyles are choosing green funerals. Choosing a “natural burial” is apparently better for the environment because it doesn’t involve embalming chemicals and coffin materials that contaminate the soil. People who go this route are instead buried in biodegradable containers (such as wicker) on areas of protected land instead of marked graveyards.4 For example, in South Carolina, the Ramsey Creek Preserve is one of many across the U.S. that allow for natural burial sites in the forest, with graves soon being covered with various types of plants.5

Of course, as another alternative to what we might consider a “traditional” burial, cremation is on the rise. In 2016, the number of people who chose to be cremated grew to 50 percent. One reason it has become more popular is that Americans are more transient now, living in a variety of different places throughout their lifetimes — not to mention the travel habits of their adult children — so they’re not interested in being buried in a place no one will ever visit.6

This option considers that ashes are portable. They can relocate along with family, or be spread anywhere in the world — or both. Some family members carry ashes in lockets or share them with other loved ones of the deceased.7

Here’s a new twist on cremation: There are companies that can compress the ashes into a memorial diamond. Because human remains contain carbon, they can be compressed and heated in the same way that diamonds are formed naturally. The process can even be used to memorialize deceased pets. This alternative can even be a less expensive and less complicated alternative to a traditional burial, depending on the color, size and cut of the diamond.8

It may be incredibly unconventional, but turning a loved one into a diamond sounds like a lovely idea to keep their memory “on hand.” After all, diamonds are forever.

 

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

2 Costco. “Funeral.” https://www.costco.com/funeral.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

3 Susan Williams. BoomingEncore.com. “Disrupting Death – Could This Be the Next Industry Ripe For Change?” http://www.boomingencore.com/disrupting-death-changing-business-industry/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

4 CBS SFBayArea. Nov. 1, 2017. “New ‘Green Burial’ Cemetery Operating In San Mateo County.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/11/01/new-green-burial-cemetery-operating-san-mateo-county/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

5 Ana Aceves. PBS. Nov. 9, 2017. “Wilderness Burials May be Better for the Environment and Boost Conservation.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/nature/wilderness-burials-may-be-better-for-the-environment-and-boost-conservation/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

6 Josh Sanburn. Time. July 13, 2017. “More Americans Than Ever Are Choosing to Be Cremated.” http://time.com/4853150/cremation-rate-us-50-percent/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

7 Annalisa Barbieri. The Guardian. Jan. 6, 2018. “‘It was an incredibly enriching day’: the families taking control of death.” https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jan/06/it-was-an-incredibly-enriching-day-the-families-taking-control-of-death. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

8 Business Matters. Jan. 4, 2018. “Memorial Diamonds: A new & innovative burial service rising in popularity in the UK.” http://www.bmmagazine.co.uk/in-business/memorial-diamonds-a-new-innovative-burial-service-rising-in-popularity-in-the-uk/. Accessed Jan. 29, 2018.

Life insurance policies are contracts between you and an insurance company. Life insurance product guarantees rely on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurer.

We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.

The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.

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Recent Articles

  • Ways to Avoid Financial Scams

    According to a recent survey, about two-thirds of adults age 70 and older fall for online scammers. Here are some tips to remember about some…

  • Insights Into Cybercrime

    Although it’s taken a back seat to domestic concerns over the past year, cybercrime is still on the rise. Attacks such as “Wannacry” shut down…

  • Digital Tools for Tax Season

    Tax season is upon us. According to the IRS, about 90 percent of taxpayers now file their taxes electronically. The agency touts the service as…