How to Safeguard Your Retirement Savings

safeguard-your-assets

Follow These 3 Steps to Avoid these Threats!

In 2017 I heard from more clients, associates and friends about being scammed or nearly scammed. Over the past three or four months, there has been a major increase in scams, viruses, ransomware attacks and identity theft schemes. Given the current state of affairs, I would expect there to be many more, and more sophisticated, threats to surface in the upcoming year. Those who take a few minutes now to plan and protect what you have worked so hard to create, will likely safeguard their wealth from the variety of threats out there.

It Can’t Happen to Me

Before you dismiss this communication as something that “can’t happen to me”, take a moment to understand the magnitude of this problem and take steps to protect yourself. According to IBM researchers, nearly half of all email today is spam. The number of spam emails increased 400% in 2016 from the previous year, and in the second half of the year, nearly half of those emails contained malicious attachments or links. At tax time, these increase even more! Attacks on businesses are growing at an even faster rate, with 76% of organizations reporting that they were the victim of a phishing attack in 2016! The 2017 statistics aren’t in, but the preliminary data shows the attacks are growing at an even faster rate during 2017, with the number growing monthly.

The Three Things to Watch Out For

click-spam

Scam #1: Click Bait

…at least that is what my son the programmer calls it. These are the headlines you see on many websites. Sometimes they are labeled as “sponsored,” but many times they are not. I had a client forward me an email they got after clicking on one of these links. It turns out, she ended up on a big, semi fake news website that appears to be offering insider “news.” There was just enough real news to make them think this was a valid source of information. She was interested in an article that said that banks can confiscate your money without notice, and because of the massive deficit, this was likely to happen soon. It offered a free report on how to protect yourself, which essentially was an offer to sell you gold and silver since you couldn’t trust paper money any longer. This website is full of links to a variety of vendors selling all kinds of goods and services. Generally, you start to read an article and then they have you complete a form to get the rest of the “report.” Once they have your data, you will get marketed or worse by those behind the website.

click-bait

Scam #2: Phishing Scams

as I mentioned above, there has been a huge explosion in these scams. They usually come as a disguised email that looks like it came from a legitimate company or governmental agency. This time of year, you may get a voice mail that says it is the IRS calling and you are in trouble and you must call a phone number before they come to arrest you. Sometimes they are emails asking you to help a friend. Other times you are being contacted because you won money or to help out with a fund transfer. I had a friend respond to one of these and ultimately got scammed out of more than $100,000 in a get rich quick scheme that seemed legitimate initially. He is in his late 60’s and as a result of this, won’t be able to retire any time soon.

It can happen, even to someone like me. Yesterday, I almost had my computer hijacked just by rolling my cursor over a banner ad. I got a scary pop up that was designed to look like it was from Microsoft telling me to call an 877 number because my computer had been compromised. Then a foreboding voice came from the computer warning me to not leave this page or my computer would be taken over. I immediately shut everything down and turned off my computer and contacted my I.T. consultant. He explained to me that these scammers buy a legitimate banner ad, run it for a few days and then stick a phony ad in for a few hours so they won’t get caught by Facebook, Yahoo, Google or the myriad of other sites this is being done on. It turns out I did everything right and my computer is fine today, but it sure scared me at the time.

identity-theft

Scam #3: Identity theft

Thieves are getting much more clever in how they steal your identity. During tax season, many will find their personal information was used to claim a tax refund and the IRS won’t accept their return. This can lead to years of problems and great cost to straighten out. Be especially careful of how you use your ATM cards. I wrote about this after the Equifax hack earlier this year. As more and more transactions take place digitally, this issue will become even more widespread.

How Can You Protect Yourself Starting Today?

First, check your credit report. You get to do this for free every year, or you can subscribe to a credit monitoring service (you still need to check your reports personally every year). This is a good time of year since the holiday shopping season tends to work out your credit cards more than other times of the year.

Second, when you are searching online, check the web address (URL) before clicking. If the address doesn’t match the title of the website, DON’T CLICK! If you are in a hurry, do it later. After all; “act in haste, repent at leisure” can really mess up your financial future.

Third, talk with your financial adviser. One of my duties is to try and stay on top of the evolving trends and risks to my clients. After all, you spend a lot of time and effort building wealth and looking forward to retirement. Having it taken from you by a scam can result in tragic outcomes for your own happy retirement. Contact us if you would like to look into easy protections for your personal financial security. Remember, “An ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure” is one of the things I have found to be true over many years. Take the time early this year to protect yourself, your identity and your retirement peace of mind.