Alright, smoke detectors have little to do with scams, but changing your batteries now will prevent that random screeching that always seems to occur in the middle of a nap. First things first…
Protecting Your Money and Data
I am no computer expert, although a few things jump out if you want to avoid hassles that come with protecting your money and data. Consider having a computer used only for money stuff, only on a safe network. Use a reputable security suite and anti malware program. This computer is never for cute kitty photos from your Facebook friends, unless it is an emergency.
PaZZwurd$!!!! Make them long and difficult to guess, I use a unique one for each account. How do I remember them? I write them down and keep them near my computer like any other dummy. There are some password generation programs that store numbers for you, I can not in good faith venture which are the best. Two-Step authentication has become popular with many firms, if someone (or you) tries to log into your account from a new browser the company will text a code required to enter the site.
Protecting Your Credit and Your Tax Returns
Around the first of every year I get copies of my three credit reports to make sure no one is pretending to be me. They are free at AnnualCreditReport.com. I request them all at once, shred last years and move on as long as things look normal. Some writers suggest getting one every four months throughout the year just in case something pops up. Seems like a hassle to me, considering a few other things now available. If there are any significant errors, best to send proof correcting the errors certified mail to each of the three reporting agencies. If necessary, involve state and federal attorney generals if errors are not being fixed by the agencies.
The credit freeze makes the most sense of everything out there. If you freeze your credit then at least in theory people can’t open new credit in your name. As a plus your level of junk mail should decrease. On top of the credit freeze a permanent opt out never hurts.
Protecting your tax return from fraudulent filing should be a consideration if you have been a victim of identity theft. Applying for a filing code will offer a layer of protection. This is a unique code the IRS will mail every year that must be included on your tax return. This should prevent a thief from claiming in a refund using your name and Social Security Number.
- Identity Protection: Prevention, Prevention and Victim Assistance at IRS.gov
- Form 14039 – Identity Theft Affidavit at IRS.gov
Some credit card companies and credit unions are now offering a FREE FICO score as part of their service. I would not be paying any shysters for FICO, don’t fall for those scams. Your FICO score should not fluctuate too much from month to month making it a good way to eyeball your credit. A sudden plunge would likely come from lots of new debt and/or unpaid bills being reported on your credit file. If that happens, time to investigate, otherwise one less worry for the month.
Credit Monitoring services seem an expensive overkill if you have taken the steps previously mentioned. I am just some hack banging away on a keyboard, do what you want. What I added for about $30 was a rider on my homeowners policy that provides some coverage for legal fees in the event of ID theft. Still overkill IMO, but it seems every retailer in the world lost a zillion credit files last year so…
One other thought on this front is credit card versus debit card for everyday purchases. Liability is limited either way, but having your bank account drained from fraudulent debit card purchases could suck a lot until the money part of the theft gets sorted out. If you want to use a debit card consider a separate account that is not linked to your bill paying money. Fraudulent purchases are a when, not if, plan accordingly.
Money, it gets stuff done.
Many times elsewhere I mentioned, I do not like people near family money. Being ripped off on a part, for a thing that may be broken, while a bummer will in most cases not wreck your life. Not so when it comes to a life savings. Many people who don’t track scams for sport might be shocked to learn a $100,000,000 ponzi scheme is commonplace these days. A few this year were multiples of that, and don’t kid yourself judgements are meaningless money lost is gone forever.
Check your professionals at both the state and federal level each year. There have been a number of articles recently where broker infractions were not properly communicated between agencies. A broker could be clean at one agency, and dirty as an ashtray at another. This needs to be done every year, people change. When schemes implode there are any number that were run by folks with many years in the money business. Lump attorneys, trust companies and accountants in this process if they have access to your funds. Any whiff of the adviser having money problems or complaints should be all the prompting one needs to move their money rapidly to safety.
Duties must be segregated to keep your nest egg safe. If you are in a situation where the person managing your money controls the reporting, the deposits, and the withdrawals a problem could be brewing. If someone is managing money for you that money needs to be held in a segregated account, preferably with a major firm where you can verify without going through the adviser. When you need to take money out, an entity other than the adviser should be writing the checks.
Its not a bad time to look for unclaimed property because you never know.
Try and avoid confusion about money by having a list everything you own on one sheet of paper. This includes bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement plans, and insurance policies. Listed beside each is the beneficiary and contact information necessary if something should happen. Most banks and brokerage accounts allow for TOD beneficiaries. Don’t in my opinion add someone as a joint account holder unless that is really what you want. Like a husband/wife situation where the funds are truly shared. The obvious problems of fraud, lawsuits, and the possible loss of step up in basis are why I would avoid this.
While probate is not a scam, it certainly is not cheap or fast. Nor is a situation where someone becomes incapacitated and needs their affairs handled. Why I feel it important to spell out your wants in detail before something happens. The less people have to do when you can’t, the less likely they are to muck it up. Or the less likely your beneficiaries are to be taken for a ride.
That’s it for now, put the sheet someplace safe and enjoy your year.