Wednesday, October 26, 2016

12 Tips to Help Retirees Avoid Being Scammed

October 12, 2016
by Art Koff

From MarketWatch 

According to the Better Business Bureau 10% of the U.S. population falls victim to consumer scams every year.

John Jupin, a former FBI special agent and retired U.S. Department of Labor — Office of Inspector General special agent gives this advice: "You may not be able to totally prevent fraud, but to minimize it is the key. The longer it goes on, the more problems you have. To minimize your exposure to fraud, I strongly suggest keeping up to date on the latest scams, as if you are aware of them, you are more likely to avoid being scammed."

You can check out a list of scams here. Below I have listed some new scams you should you should know about.

Social media has enabled scammers to reach millions of users often by creating "fake" pages promising everything from discounted tickets to sporting events to free airline flights or shopping sprees at name department stores. Official-looking Facebook pages often including the actual logos of well-known companies are used to create an air of authenticity. Sometimes these posts come from a trusted friend who was encouraged to share "the deal." Clicking on these pages can lead you into divulging your personal information.

Electronic pickpocketing
Information on credit cards using RFID chips can be stolen by thieves using relatively inexpensive portable scanners. All they need to do is get the scanner close enough to your wallet or purse to steal credit card numbers and expiration dates. Thieves can use this information to make fraudulent purchases. If you're concerned about getting ripped off by someone with a scanner place a piece of aluminum foil in your wallet as this will defeat the scanner.

12 Tips to Help Avoid Being Scammed
1. Get a mailbox that locks.
2. Do not leave personal information in your car.
3. Make sure your smart phone, laptop, iPad, etc. have pass codes to prevent unauthorized use.
4. Close any old, unused credit card accounts you do not use.
5. Set up online access to your banking accounts so you can easily check unlawful use and stop mailed statements.
6. Do not throw away documents that contain personal information like credit card statements and medical bills. Shred them first.
7. Check with your Better Business Bureau ( for authenticity of offers.
8. If a purported "employer" (company paying you on a commission basis) or a buyer or seller gives you a check and insists that you wire or deposit money back into their account, it is a scam. There is no legitimate reason for someone to give you a check and then ask that you give them a part of the money back.
9. Never assume a check has cleared, even if you get access to funds from a check you deposit, unless your bank explicitly tells you so. Just because the funds from the check say "available" in your account doesn't mean the check is good.
10. Do not accept checks for more than your asking price, commission, revenue share or salary. Demand a check for the correct amount and if this is refused, you will know it's a scam.
11. Never wire or deposit money into the bank accounts of people you do not know for any reason.
12. Resist high-pressure tactics. Scammers pressure their victims to act now to get a job, help out a friend or family member in trouble or receive payment for an item they are selling. If you are a victim report the scam immediately by filing a complaint at via its secure online complaint form. This form is shared with law enforcement and consumer groups to go after the scammers.

Here are a few sites that will help you identify scams.
Avoiding Identity Theft
The easiest and most successful way to protect yourself against identity theft is to place a credit-card freeze on your accounts. This prohibits anyone, including you and your spouse, from opening credit in your name. It will not affect your credit or cause problems with the credit cards you currently have nor will it affect your mortgage, car loans, etc.

Since scammers cannot open credit in your name, they are unable to use your identity, and identity theft becomes highly unlikely. Remember that while a credit freeze is in place you will not be able to apply for new credit cards or credit yourself.

To place a credit-card freeze on your account, you must contact the three main credit agencies.
  • Equifax 800-525-6285
  • Experian 888-397-3742
  • Trans Union 800-680-7289
If your identity has been stolen, you must notify the credit agencies listed above. You should also contact your local law enforcement agency. Complaints can be filed as well by calling 877-IDTHEFT or logging on to the Federal Trade Commission website.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

4 Steps You Should Take to Make Sure You Don't Outlive Your Money

By Art Koff as seen in MarketWatch

According to a just-published HSBC Holdings publication 59% of those surveyed said financial security is one of the things they value most in life and 67% said a priority is having enough money for a comfortable life in retirement.*

The focus of this column is on what you can do to make sure you have enough funds to live the lifestyle you hoped to live during your retirement years and not run out of money.

Perhaps the most important single thing you should consider is to make sure your spending is at a level so that you will not run out of money. Your monthly income from investments, Social Security, pensions and other areas coupled with your withdrawal from principle must be adjusted to last you well into your 90s. This spending must include additional funds put aside for unexpected expenses like health-care problems not covered by Medicare and insurance.

It is very difficult to accurately estimate the balance between spending and income even with sound advice from a financial advisor. You must estimate your expenses, and to be safe, you must plan to have a good deal of your wealth left at the end of your life.

Sept 2. Create a budget that includes your projected monthly expenses. Include your yearly expenses and special onetime expenses separately. Vanguard has a Retirement Expenses Worksheet which should be helpful.

Note: Retirees have a tendency to substantially underestimate what they may spend on health care so estimate this area with particular care.

Step 3. Create a list of income and assets. Does your income from retirement savings coupled with Social Security benefits, pensions, etc. match your expenditures, and if not, how much must be taken from assets to cover the shortfall? Needless to say, expenses must be adjusted, as when assets are sold, this further reduces the income they produce.

Step 4. Estimate how long you will work. If it seems that your income will be far less than your expenditures consider continuing to work longer either for your current employer or on a part-time, temporary, seasonal or project basis. See here for information and help.

You can also considering working from home. See here where you can find information about hundreds of companies that provide at home work solutions. Also, you can consider starting a small business or even purchasing a franchise to generate income. See here for more information.

Be aware that if you continue working after you are receiving Social Security there will be a with-holding of $1 for every $2 you earn over $15,720 (2016 figure).

Here you can view 11 calculators from the U.S. Government including a Social Security retirement estimator and a early or late retirement benefit calculator.

MarketWatch columns to reference

Visit the RetiredBrains Website

If you're looking for a job, caring for an aging parent, are worried about memory loss, have arthitis pain, planning a vacation or even want to continue your education, the information you need is at