It’s unfortunate, but true: during this time of economic uncertainty, one of the most active âindustriesâ has been financial scams. But this continues even under normal circumstances, so you’ll want to know what to look for and how to defend yourself.
For starters, how prevalent is financial fraud? Consider this: In 2019, over 3.2 million cases of fraud were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, with identity theft being the most common type of fraud, accounting for about a fifth of all cases. And new fraudulent accounts (mortgages, student loans, auto loans, and credit cards) amounted to around $ 3.4 billion in 2018, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.
To avoid being victimized, consider the following suggestions. They are not an exhaustive list, but they should prove useful.
Beware of unsafe websites. Make sure a website is secure before entering any payment or personal information. Look for sites that start with HTTPS, rather than those that contain only HTTP, which are insecure and can be hacked. But even a site with HTTPS can still be used by crooks, so if you don’t recognize the name of the company or group requesting your information, do some research to make sure it’s legitimate.
Review your credit reports. As mentioned above, fraudulent opening of new accounts is a big source of financial scams. To make sure no one has opened new accounts in your name, try to review your credit reports at least once a year. You can get them for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Fraud monitoring. If you’ve ever been a victim of opening new accounts in your name, contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) and place a 90-day fraud alert on your file. credit. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, print it out, and file it with your local law enforcement agency. And it is also a good idea to contact the fraud department of the financial companies where the thief has opened a fraudulent account in your name.
Watch out for suspicious links. “Phishers” have become quite good at sending messages that appear to come from reputable companies. But if you take a close look at these messages, you can usually determine if there is something wrong with them. For example, no legitimate company will tell you, through this type of message, that you should “correct your account” by providing additional information. And if you click on the link provided and it takes you to a third-party site, you can be sure that it is a fake.
Resist ‘act now’ offers. If you receive an offer, over the phone or online, urging you to “act immediately” on an investment opportunity, discontinue the communication. No reputable financial advisor will ever try to force you to take such quick action, and if an investment is legitimate, it will be available tomorrow, next week, and next year.
Use your grinder. You probably have the option of âgoing paperlessâ with all of your banks and financial service providers, but, if you still receive paper documents, be sure to shred them when they are no longer needed.
You save and invest for years to help you reach your long-term goals. Don’t let any of your efforts be undone by financial fraudsters.
Jennifer Barrett (AAMS) is a local financial advisor to Edward Jones.
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Edward Jones, its employees, and its financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate planning lawyer or qualified tax advisor about your situation.