Greetings! I trust that this will find you well and enjoying life.
As we get older, we lose some of our mental acuity. In many cases, it’s relatively harmless, we forget where we put our reading glasses, or we struggle for the name of someone we haven’t seen recently.
In more serious cases, the mental “slowing down” that comes with aging can impact our ability to understand our finances and make us more vulnerable to fraud.
What should we do to protect yourself (or your aging loved ones) in today’s world where we do everything online, including banking and investments? Newsmax spoke to experts around the country about screening for fraud, cleaning up junk email, credit monitoring, and other key ways to reduce your risk as the retirement years begin.
Stop clicking on links online and in emails. Invariably, the stories you read about major corporate security breaches begin with “phishing,” the tactic of sending official-looking emails that contain hidden links or attachments that can take over a computer in seconds.
Ordinary people at home are not safe from this kind of sophisticated attack. Often, the best strategy here is simply not to act at all.
In fact, legitimate banks and investment companies often will not send emails with links, instead prompting you to log in to their website on your own, securely, to review documents.
Update your software. Many older folks remain on outdated computer operating systems because they are comfortable with how they work. (Even big businesses make this mistake.)
For safety, however, you should upgrade on time and remember to keep added software updated too.
“Living online can be a very risky proposition in a world where data breaches are (so numerous that they are) no longer newsworthy and kids, criminals, and governments are all hacking each other,” says Lee Munson, a security researcher at Comparitech.com, which rates and compares technology products.
Always use decent security software, Munson advises. “True, a good antivirus program is no silver bullet, in much the same way a firewall will not stop every attack, but to jump online without either is folly,” he says.
Be wary of referrals. A lot of information about you and your connections is online and available to anyone in the world, your friends, your schools, the city you call home. That kind of familiarity can be weaponized, warns Ian Atkins, a financial analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com.
“Today’s sophisticated scammers are using publicly available information from LinkedIn, Facebook, online news articles in local papers, and public court records to convince their targets that they can and should be trusted,” Atkins says.
The hook is creating credibility by sharing facts that many believe only their physician or tax preparer would know, then pretending to be a referral from a trusted friend.
“After a second look, you’ll see they could have gotten the information from dozens of places,” Atkins says. “That is why you should ask for specifics and verify every referral with the person they claim to be referred from. Be insistent on confirming their identity.
Get a buddy. A hallmark of fraud is isolation, Atkins says. It’s easier to target an older person who insists on going it alone.
“Scammers and fraudsters work very hard to separate their targets from their support system,” Atkins says. The best defense is a good defense. Buddy up. “Whether your support system is a spouse, child, a financial adviser, or some other trusted counselor, you should never give out personal or financial information without consulting that person.”
Safeguard your medicare information. Personally identifiable information on ordinary paper documents remains key even in an online-centric world. A lot of older people carry their Medicare card with them, for instance.
“Everyone needs to protect their personally identifiable information daily,” says Michael Levin, a retired U.S. Secret Service officer and now CEO of a security training firm The Center for Information Security Awareness.
“Don’t trust anyone that offers free medical equipment or services and then requests your Medicare information,” he warns. “Any service that is truly free will not need your Medicare number.”
Likewise, invest in a decent paper shredder, one that turns items such as credit-cards statements and old tax documents into tiny, cross-cut pieces that are easily discarded.
If we can help in any way with this or anything else related to retirement don’t hesitate to contact us.
Jeff Christian CFP, CRPC
You give your best not because you need to impress people; you give your best because that’s the only way to enjoy your work.