How to avoid the wave of identity theft and fraud this Summer

Protecting your money has come a long way since the days when you bought groceries with a check that had your name, birthdate, Social Security number, and address printed in the top left corner. If you remember that era, you might feel overwhelmed by today’s online and digital financial systems.
Being paper-free offers convenience that comes at a cost – elaborate scams that steal your money, creditworthiness, financial safety, and good name. If you’re feeling a little less tech- savvy and find these scams alarming and hard to understand, we’re here to help you.

Here are six things you can do to get ahead of scammers.

1. Make a list of all your trusted contacts

A trusted contact is someone you formally name at your bank or other financial institution who can reach you if something urgent comes up. Remember, a trusted contact doesn’t have access to your money or your account info or know the personal details of your accounts. What they do have access to is you – and they can step in before you become the victim of a con.

2. Look for red flags

Resist the urge to click on links in suspicious emails or text messages or to answer calls from callers you don’t know. If strangers leave a message, listen for anything that causes the emotions of fear or excitement – this technique waves a bright red flag telling you to stop.

In truth, it’s the rare phone call, email or text that requires an immediate answer, so if you are asked to part with money or important personal data on one of those communications, stop the interaction and get in touch with one of your trusted contacts.

3. Sign up for scam alerts

The more you know, the better. Plenty of organizations exist to track and promulgate information about the scams that are making the rounds. Places like AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and the Better Business Bureau let you sign up for free. Your credit card company, brokerage, and bank will also send alerts if you set your accounts up that way.

4. Realize that no financial decisions need to be immediate

Few interactions require immediacy. Driving, jumping back from a fire, or giving CPR are examples of infrequent instances when you need to act quickly. Financial decisions never need to be made in a hurry. The minute you feel pressured to decide on something fast is the exact time to end the interaction.

Every reputable organization will give you a phone number or other contact method for you to call them back later. If they can’t, they are not legitimate.

5. Your personal information is, well, personal

You don’t have to give out information if you don’t want to. The worst that can happen when you refuse to give your Social Security number or your birth date is that the app you are entering it into will prevent you from moving forward. In that case, you can make the conscious decision to proceed or to exit. However, in spontaneous conversations with unsolicited financial sellers or other entities, if they ask for personal information, say no or tell them you’ll call them back or enter the data later. Then check with a trusted contact to make sure the offer is kosher.

6. Maintain higher vigilance on vacation

Summer travel opens the door to even more places you can be conned. Your residence is vacant for a week or more. You’re staying in unfamiliar places. Renting from Airbnb puts you in the personal home of an amateur landlord. Flying, driving and cruising up the ante for losing personal documents. During this time, be even more careful in financial interactions.

Taking precautions will go a long way toward providing some peace of mind knowing you’re protecting yourself and your family.

This material was prepared by Kiplinger

Work with Certified Industry Professional

Jerrí Hewett Miller CFP®, RICP, BFA


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