Podcast: Revisiting Equifax

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The following is the transcript from Episode 16 of Retire Happy with Roger Gainer, a financial and business audio podcast.

Roger: I saw an estimate that over 10% of all the emails being sent, are virused. So, you know, it’s so hard to take the time, but just make it a habit, folks, because you don’t wanna go through this. Believe me.

Clark: You’re listening to “Retire Happy” with Roger Gainer, President of Gainer Financial and Insurance Services, Inc. The Equifax breach that occurred at the end of 2017, put millions of Americans finances at risk. With that in mind, in today’s episode, we’re taking a short trip in time back to see what has happened since that breach. Along the way, we’ll cover the multitude of threats to your identity that are out there, as well as the different steps that you can take to keep your family and finances safe. Thanks for joining us. I’m your host Clark Buckner. Let’s jump right in.

Clark: Roger, welcome back. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you today. First of all, how are you doing?

Roger: Doing great. It’s a new year, new opportunities, a chance to make up for things that weren’t maybe to my happiness or satisfaction last year and take stock. I love this time of the year. Thanks for asking.

Clark: It is. Yeah. Happy new year and no matter when someone listens to this, whether it’s the beginning of a New Year, mid-year, end of the year, whenever, there’s always actionable insights that we get from you during these sessions. So, I know we’ve talked about this and previous folks who have heard you talk about the Equifax hack, the breach, I mean, its worldwide news and something I think we should definitely continue the dialogue on is taking a look at the late 2017 Equifax breach. But what’s happened since then, and as we’re thinking about what’s happened since then, some of the threats to continue to watch out for because that’s the ones building for retirement, you don’t wanna be dealing with the previous scams and the problems that come from those that we’ve talked about before. So, that’s the kind of to set the stage.

Roger: Yeah. Okay. Well, you’re right. You’re saving money for your own personal financial security, for while you’re working, sending the kids to college, something goes wrong, you have an accident, whatever, or you get your retirement, now you’ve got to live on these assets and you sure didn’t spend all the time saving and accumulating and strategizing just to have some thief swoop in and take what you worked so hard for. So, when I do financial planning with clients, we talk about how we’re gonna build a castle for you. And in the Middle Ages, they were really smart when they were gonna build a castle.

The first thing they built was the moat. They wanted to protect the castle from invaders. And so we always talk about protection. Yeah, exactly. Then what’s the point of building something if you make it too easy to take away, you know, here in the San Francisco Bay area while in the city of San Francisco right now it is an absolute crime wave of people breaking car windows and parked cars and stealing whatever is sitting in the back seat. So, it seems logical. Don’t leave anything in the backseat, but it happens all the time. You’re in a hurry, you threw your briefcase or a bag back there because you’re shopping, and you throw it back there and you come back and there’s broken glass on the street and you go, “Darn, I had no idea this would happen.”

Well, you made it easy for them. So, you became a target and it’s unfortunate. And all the time and effort you went into shopping for whatever that was and the money involved and the time and all that. That’s gone. Somebody just came and in a matter of seconds, it’s gone. So, you know, it only took a few seconds more to put it in the trunk than to throw it in the back seat. So, it’s the same kind of thing when we’re looking at the big picture of our financial affairs and in our planning, what we’re building, we have to protect. And that used to be things like a lawsuit protection and taxes and things like that. And there’s still all areas that we have concerns with sure, but now we’ve got these identity thieves, and it’s so much easier for people to take your identity and then take money in your name instead of their own because really, very few of these folks get caught.

So, if you call up the police department and you say, “Hey, my identity was stolen and now they got $100,000 out of my bank account.” The police will be very sympathetic, but there’s not a whole lot they could do. So, we’re all kind of on our own in this Wild West world of internet and online banking and shopping and the digital money. I go to the gas station and they don’t take cash anymore. They also don’t take credit cards. So, what does that leave me? It leaves me with my ATM card. Well, the gas station near my house, which happens to have the lowest price gas anywhere in Northern California, I’m gonna shop there because I save 10, 20 cents a gallon minimum. But they don’t…and they only take my ATM card.

So, I’m always worried about skimmers coming in and stealing my information. So, I take a little extra time. I make sure I’m not in a hurry and I look over the card reader, you know, the little slot you put your card into and see if anything looks unusual if they put a skimmer in there, or if somebody as I walk right up very close when I put in my pin number because somebody might be looking over my shoulder, or sometimes they even put little cameras. We’ve talked about this before, Clark.

They put little cameras up underneath the finger guard that’s supposed to be keeping people from seeing what you’re doing. And so these are just everyday little things. It takes only a few minutes. I have all kinds of folks I know that they say, “I don’t want credit so I’m gonna do everything with my ATM card because it’s a VISA too. So, I shop online and all this other stuff.” And we’ve talked about how it’s just an extra layer of protection when you’re shopping in those situations to use the bank’s money instead of your own because if something negative happens, at least you’re not out your money while they’re straightening out whether you were hacked or ripped off or robbed, et cetera.

But the things that this time of the year, particularly, this year if you’ve been watching the news or reading the paper, you know that we’ve had quite a few natural disasters, not just here in California but all over the country in the last six, eight months. The floods in Houston. Everything’s freezing in the south right now, which is causing all kinds of problems. The flooding and the hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico and the fires in northern and southern California. And now we have mudslides.

And whenever this kind of stuff happens, you get scams come in, in the aftermath, you get phony contractors that are coming in, “Just give me a deposit and I’ll secure and schedule you.” And then they disappear and there’s things that we’ve talked about in other podcasts about making sure you have cash in the bank is sharing your risk in terms of how we arrange your mortgages and things like that so that you can’t be devastated by one of these natural disasters.

But we’re reading the articles now. Here we are, months down the road and some people are still waiting for insurance adjusters and FEMA and these other things to happen. And so you get a little impatient. Somebody comes along and says, “Hey, give me a few thousand bucks and I can grease the skids for ya and we can get this done.” And you’re so desperate you go, “Sure.” So, things like phony contractors, service providers, et cetera. So, today, because things are so busy, it’s hard to take the time to slow down and make sure you’re dealing with legitimate people and legitimate strategies and that sort of thing. So, and then here we are at the start of the year and everybody’s mind is turning to taxes, right? Aren’t you thinking about your taxes?

Clark: Yes.

Roger: So, gotta file them soon. You’re either gonna get a refund or pay, but we all know that April 15th is looming because of tax reform this year that happened just a few weeks back in December. Every tax advisor and tax preparer that I know is already just slammed right now. This is gonna be a very difficult tax season for those folks because of all the changes and how late they happened. And it’s gonna make planning even more critical this year. But it also means that we’re gonna see more scams. So, things to remember is the IRS is never gonna pick up the phone and call you and tell you, you owe money.

They’re never gonna take a credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the phone call. And any emails you get from social security or the bank or any this IRS, that’s not how these institutions reach out to people. So do not respond. Don’t click on any links and don’t call their 800 number if you wanna find out if it’s legitimate, because some of them are. You go look up the number for whoever theoretically sent that to you and you call them independently and say, “Hey, did you send out an email?” Because they’ll know. But if you call, obviously, if you call the number on that email, they’re gonna answer that email and say, “Of course, that’s legitimate.”

So, you need to do a little bit of work. The other tip is when you see these emails. I get probably half a dozen of these a day where it says…it came from somebody but when I look in the header on the email, the email address is actually from someone else. It’s not from either the person or the entity name. And there’s just a few letters been changed. This has become a really big deal. A big scam. And so before you click on these things on Google or Yahoo or whatever search engine you’d like to use, look at that address very, very carefully because this is where a lot of scams come from.

One of my relatives, last fall, I wrote about this in a blog post. They wanted to buy a honey baked ham from the honey baked ham store for Christmas. And have it shipped out, that’s the only one for them. And so she was in a hurry and typed in, “Honey baked ham store” and misspelled it. So, there was a…said “honey baked hams” but the address was actually a couple of letters off.

So, I think of like if you wanted to type in Google and you put in three o’s in Google, somebody has bought that web address. That G-O-O-O-G-L- E.com or.net or you know. So, people buy what are…

Clark: Variations.

Roger: Variations that are common mistakes. And so when you go, what happened to this relative, they ended up on a website and tried to place the order. They put in all the information, it looked legitimate, they put in credit card information and then they got an error message that said, “The website cannot accept your order at this time, call this 800 number to complete your transaction.” And she called the 800 number and before she said, “Before I knew it, I’d paid $89 for a bunch of stuff I didn’t want and I still hadn’t ordered a ham.” And the guy said, “Well, that’s too bad. We’ve already charged your credit card. Ha, ha, ha ha on you.” Then she was able to get to the bank fast enough. The charge hadn’t cleared. So, she put a stop on that and she didn’t get hurt, but it was only because she got suspicious and asked a question instead of she was already down the road and these people have her personal information.

Now, we’ll have to see how this all plays out. But I’ve been warning people about this stuff for years, but this year, more than ever, you’re seeing your email box filled up with these they’re called “phishing scams”, P-H-I-S-H-I-N-G and what they’re doing is they’re just baiting a hook and drop it in the water and obviously, people are clicking on these things or responding to these things because they wouldn’t keep sending so many more of them.

I saw an estimate about a month ago that over 10% of all the emails being sent our virused and that’s something like 20% of all the emails are more than done. It’s closer to 40% of emails are either advertising spam of some sort. So, you have a high percentage of those. And then a very significant percentage of those advertising messages are disease, virused or otherwise could compromise your identity or other stuff. So, it’s so hard to take the time, but just make it a habit, folks. Because you don’t wanna go through this. Believe me.

Clark: I know earlier we were talking a little bit about how this is a new year and although this is recorded after the new year, after the 2018 year has begun, this is all good advice anytime in the year, but you were saying a moment ago, you really liked this time of year when you can kind of catch your breath. You’re thinking about what’s next, how do you normally recommend the people you work with to gain that perspective to think about what is next for them in their lives? Whether it’s a new year, a new way to think about saving and building a retirement that towards their retirement. Any thoughts on that?

Roger: Well, it’s always a good time to start planning or to continue or to improve your planning. There’s never a bad time to do that because the longer you wait, the longer you are doing what you’re currently doing and that might be costing you money or in ways that you don’t even know or maybe you could do better or work more efficiently. So, there is a value to time and to taking care of stuff now. Whenever now happens to be for you. Why I like this time of the year? Come into December, you’ve got the holidays, you talk to family and friends. There’s something just about the New Year where we’re renewed, we’re refreshed. It’s a great milepost. The whole tradition of New Year’s resolutions. I just read yesterday that that was the day yesterday was the day that 90% of all New Year’s resolutions are broken. We don’t want to be breaking these. So yeah, the 17th of January is the day that most people have broken their new year’s resolutions by.

But there’s something about this time of the year, we’re not outside running around, enjoying the great outdoors. The days are a little shorter, the weather is in its [inaudible 00:17:01] if you tell me it was cold and snowing today where you at, Clark, and I’ve been talking to people all across the country. It’s a pretty miserable day out there, but that makes it a really great time to sit down with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine, a brandy and sit down with yourself, with significant people in your life who are affected by financial decisions and just take stock. Look back over 2017. Look back over the last year. And did you make the progress you were hoping to make? What could have been better? What could have been worse? It’s a wonderful time to look back and see if you’re happy with your progress and if you are, how can we build on that? And if you’re not, what do we have to change?

So, it’s a good time to look forward. Take stock of what’s just happened, and then in the coming year, make it even better. That’s a beautiful thing about the time we live in and where we live. We have the ability to make things better for ourselves. It’s easy to complain and wish it were better, but really small steps can have huge ramifications, especially at this time of the year. One of the things that highlighted the last quarter was tax reform. Do you remember that?

Clark: Yeah. Big dialogue.

Roger: Yeah. They dialogue. Dominated the news. A lot of crazy stuff but they got “tax overhaul done.” And these tax changes are gonna be really great for some people and for other people, it’s gonna be really horrible. And so it makes this tax season even more important than most in recent memory, because you really wanna sit down with somebody now, not in October or not because I couldn’t get around to it by April 15th. So, I filed my extension and I’m just ignoring what’s happening under the new tax code, but there are moves. We’re gonna be sitting down with our folks, our tax consultant here pretty soon to think if we wanna reorganize our business because of the tax act. Do we wanna change the type of corporation we are? It could possibly save us tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t know yet.

This thing happened so quickly and was passed so hurriedly that even if people had voted on it will tell you, they didn’t know what was in it. So, we’re just finding out these things. The rules are coming out the study of the nuance in here so we can find out where are the loopholes? Frankly, there’s always gonna be loopholes and anything that’s pushed through this quickly. So, you don’t wanna get run over by it and if there’s an opportunity for you to pay less taxes or make more money without adding risk, wouldn’t you wanna have that stuff?

Clark: Mh-hmm. Well, I really like how you were saying all in all, now is a really good time to be thinking about the past, reflection on the past and also it’s a good time to be thinking forward. So, a great tool that we always like to wrap up these conversations with is a thought organizer. So, tell me why is a thought organizer, especially helpful if you’re thinking about the future?

Roger: Well, I’ll just give an example from today. I had two new clients come in or potential clients I should call them. And we…that’s the first step that they take one before they meet with me for the very first time. And with one of them, it helped her to really understand where she was around a piece of rental property, was a problem she was coming in to really talk to me about.

But there were other things that came out through her filling out the thought organizer and she said, “I just really…stuff wasn’t on my radar screen. So, now I have all this food for thought, but I’m excited. I’m 62 years old and I wanna retire here in a few years. And all I could look at was that I had still had student debt. “It’s really unusual to have student debt when you’re approaching retirement, but it’s becoming less unusual these days. Unfortunately, because if you go to grad school, a lot of people are, they have six figures in debt and it becomes brutal to try to create a retirement for yourself and to deal with that debt.

So, even though that was her second biggest problem, there were other things standing in the way, and she was just focused on that. But by taking a step back through the use and the completion of the thought organizer, she looked at me, she said, “I hadn’t ever thought about these things, but I can see where if I do X, Y and Z, it’ll take care of this and I’ll be in this better position.” So, that’s really what the thought organizer. It’s like taking stock. It’s just designed to get you to think and think about am I on track? It’s kinda fun to do it from time to time. I sat down and my wife and I did it last year. We hadn’t done it for about four or five years and it was very insightful to see A, how our answers had changed since the last time we did it and how our priorities had changed. We’re a little older and the kids are a little older and the situation is different.

So, what our priorities are while still basically the same, it’s allowed us to some insight to make those little bit of changes to keep us on track to where we wanna be.

Clark: It’s a great place I think to start wrapping up. It makes sense. And even for someone who is as organized as you, it’s what I’m hearing is it’s still important to take time to think about what the future holds. What a concept. But hey, that’s all. I answered all the questions I had. So, in order to get the thought organizer, how would you direct someone to do that?

Roger: Go to www.gainerfinancial.com. And scroll down the bottom of the page and you’ll see this little thing bob in there and you click on it and follow the prompts. It’ll tell you what to do to download the “thought organizer” And at the same time if you wanna subscribe to our newsletter, you can do that too. But the “thought organizer” I just want as many people as possible to take advantage of that tool and to gain the clarity that comes through taking stock of your situation.

Clark: Thank you very much, Roger. I look forward to talking to you soon.

Roger: All right, Clark. Thanks again. Always great talking with you.

Clark: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of “Retire Happy.” Be sure to head on over to gainerfinancial.com to download your thought organizer to get started. Roger L. Gainer, CHFC California Insurance license number 0754849 is licensed to sell insurance and annuity products in California, Illinois, Arizona, Pennsylvania and New York. Roger L. Gainer is an investment advisor representative, providing advisory services through HFIS, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Gainer Financial and Insurance Services, Inc. is not owned or affiliated with HFIS, Inc., and operates independently. Thanks again so much and we’ll see you next time on “Retire Happy.”

roger-gainer

Roger holds the coveted and well-earned designations of Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®) and Retirement Income Certified Professional (RIPC®) from the American College. He is also a licensed insurance agent for life and health insurance, a Certified Paralegal for Estate Planning, and a current board member of SASM.

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