More than 1.4 million fraud reports were filed in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In a quarter of those reports, people said they lost money — totaling nearly $1.5 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”).
AARP recently hosted a webinar on “How to Protect Your Loved Ones from Fraud” — but don’t let the fact that AARP hosted this event lead you to believe only seniors are susceptible to financial scams. In fact, the FTC report showed younger people reported losing money more often than older people. Bottom line: Financial fraud can happen to anyone.
Here are some key takeaways from the AARP’s webinar we all could use:
1. Heighten your awareness. Scammers are looking for individuals who are vulnerable, trusting, and perceived to have wealth or valuable items. This doesn’t mean you can’t be nice. It does mean you need to pay attention to the world around you.
2. Stay current with the news. Last year’s scams might not be this year’s scams. Case in point is the phone call scam that’s supposed to be from the Social Security Administration. The scam is so prevalent Social Security is issuing warnings about it. Resources including the FTC and AARP provide fraud alerts so you can stay current with the latest tactics from scammers.
3. Use technology wisely. Today’s technology advances may be wonderfully convenient — but they also up the need to follow safe practices. Make sure you have strong passwords for your accounts, especially ones where you have financial information stored. Also, make sure the software on your devices is up to date. Outdated software can expose your devices to malware or security breaches, which can lead to identity theft.
4. Screen your phone calls. Protecting yourself from scammers would be easy if they identified themselves on your phone’s caller ID. Unfortunately, they don’t. Consider letting calls roll to voicemail if you don’t recognize the caller. Let close friends and family know this is your standard operating procedure so they don’t worry if you don’t answer right away.
5. Monitor your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Other organizations use this information to evaluate your credit, insurance, employment and housing. Make sure the information is accurate.
6. Research the credentials of financial advisors. It may be helpful to tap into the expertise of bankers, accountants and financial advisors — but sharing your financial status with others is sensitive and personal. Individuals in the financial services industry should be prepared to discuss with you their experience and credentials. It’s key to know your financial advisors are bound by a professional code of ethics.
We’re not talking about major life changes here. Staying current with the news, using technology securely and checking out the credentials of people with partner with are all activities we should be doing regularly anyway. Staying on top of these tasks can go a long way toward protecting yourself from possible scams and fraud.