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Podcast Episode – Meir Statman
With the Recent Events in Ukraine, Should I Make Changes to My Portfolio?
Embracing the Evidence at Anheuser-Busch – Mid 1980s
529 Best Practices
Turn Your Kid into a Password Superhero
We have talked in the past about how to keep your information safe online, but what about your kids’? In this era of Zoom classrooms, kids are more in charge of their cyber safety than ever before, and parents are sick of remembering and retrieving passwords. What’s the solution?
Below we’ve distilled some wisdom shared recently in this Wall Street Journal article.
- Tell them why – Passwords stop others from using your computer or pretending to be you over the internet.
- Long is best, and silly beats the rest! – Use a silly sentence as a password. Silly sentences are easy to remember and hard to guess. What’s the silliest sentence you can think of?
- Secrecy and consequences – Only you know your secret code. If you lose or forget it you might not be able to play with your friends. Trusting an adult with your password is ok.
- No peeking – Passwords are secret. Before and while you enter your password, make sure no one is watching.
- Check for the little padlock – The little lock in the address bar shows you have a secure connection, and it’s safe to enter your password.
In Your Cyber-Corner: Enough with the Scam Calls, Already
At best, they’re annoying as all get-out. At worst, you end up falling for them. Either way, with phone services gone mobile, scam callers are finding us wherever we go. As stated in this recent AARP Bulletin, “5 Ways to Stop Spam Calls,” American homes are receiving about 4 million robocalls every hour.
That much ringing sure is one big headache. Although I can’t promise to eliminate those pesky calls completely, I can offer several tips for managing them.
Silence Is Golden
You can start by reading the AARP Bulletin I referenced above. One simple tip requires no action at all, just a little habit change. The author suggests answering your phone with several seconds of silence when you first pick up. You may even want to let the other party say “Hello?” first.
While this may seem harsh, the reality is, if it’s a real person trying to reach you, the pause shouldn’t impede the conversation. If it’s a voice-activated robocall, the silence should not only cause them to disconnect and move on, it could trick them into assuming the number is invalid, which might also discourage them from trying to call back.
Pros and Cons of the Cold Shoulder
Should you simply skip answering the phone at all, assuming anyone who matters will leave a message? It’s an easy way to avoid speaking with anyone you shouldn’t. Especially if you find it hard to hang up on an unwelcome call once you’ve answered it, this might still be your best bet. But recognize that, unlike the silent treatment above, reaching your voicemail confirms that your number is indeed in service. This can set you up for repeat attempts and increased robocall volume in the future.
With most phones offering CallerID, you may be able to identify unwelcome calls on your own. For example, the AARP Bulletin notes, “Beware of area codes 268, 284, 809 and 876, which originate from Caribbean countries.” If the caller’s number is similar to your own, that’s another red flag. For example, say your phone number were 123-456-7890. Any unfamiliar call supposedly from the same 123-456 prefix is likely bogus.
The AARP Bulletin also suggests several free services and apps to help you further identify, flag and block spam calls on your cell phone and landlines alike.
Tough Love About Phone Etiquette
If you do end up answering a spam call despite your best efforts, your top concern should be ensuring you don’t fall into any traps once they get you on the line. The instant you recognize the caller may be illegitimate, go silent. Don’t ask or answer any questions. Don’t even explain why you’d rather not speak with them. Just hang up. Immediately. If the caller was claiming to be from an institution you do business with, such as your bank, you can always call that institution directly to report and ask about the suspicious call. This is similar to the advice I offered on email phishing.
The time has come for us to reframe phone etiquette! The old way called for being immediately pleasant and engaging when a stranger called. The new way? Let the stranger say “hello” first. Although Miss Manners may not approve, answering a stranger’s call with a couple seconds of silence may reduce these calls for good. If you have additional ideas, we are always here to discuss.
Financial Elder Abuse: It Can Happen to You
Combine our aging population, longer life expectancies, and all the new-fangled ways to engage in old-fashioned thievery, and America faces a perfect storm of increased financial elder abuse.
It’s worth emphasizing, even those who are affluent, well-educated and/or generally street-savvy are not immune from the threat. In a 2015 survey, True Link Financial (a firm dedicated to protecting families against financial abuse) found that, “Seniors who are young, urban, and college educated lose more money than those who are not,” and “[f]inancially sophisticated seniors lose more to fraud, likely because they are comfortable moving larger amounts of money around.”
They also found that especially friendly (and/or lonely) seniors were at increased risk. For example, you probably know someone who fits this description: “You tell mom to hang up on telemarketers, but she is just too polite to hang up on anyone.”
First, we fiduciary advisors have an important role to play as our clients’ first lines of defense against financial elder abuse. Once we know you well – and thanks in part to recently enacted legislation – we and our allies at Schwab Institutional are better equipped to detect and follow up when something seems “off.”
Family members can and should help as well (although, tragically, they can also be among the worst perpetrators, given their ready access to the victim’s heartstrings).
Together, we can watch out for telltale signs of financial elder abuse.
Be on the lookout for erratic financial activities that don’t jive with your loved one’s past habits and levels of competency. For example, watch out for missing or inconsistent account statements, unpaid bills, and unexplained deposits or withdrawals.
There are softer signs as well. Be on alert if a loved one is displaying increased levels of anxiety or confusion about their money; or if a family member, “friend” or guardian may be isolating their victim from you or others.
Financial abuse can arrive in the form of an external threat – such as a phone scam, in which the victim is tricked into wiring money overseas to “rescue” a stranded relative, or a phishing email that tempts them into clicking on infected links. As touched on above, the abuse also can come from a trusted friend or family member, and it can continue for years.
If you suspect you or someone you know has become a victim of financial abuse, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to report it. It truly can happen to anyone, at any age! Hill Investment Group clients and their family members should feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. You also may wish to be in touch with other financial alliances, such as your bank or insurance provider, and consider submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Would you like to know more about what we are doing Hill Investment Group to prevent abuse and fraud, and protect client information? We are here as a resource for you. Feel free to be in touch with any questions.