Scammer on the Rise: How to Protect Yourself in Retirement
June 1, 2023
A change in your retirement savings balance could be the result of recent stock market volatility, or because your account has been accessed by someone else and compromised. The National Association of Plan Advisors reported that hackers have been targeting retirement accounts, either through large-scale attacks on financial institutions or by using stolen personal information. Bryce Austin with TCE Strategy said that a hacker can get into your 401(k) two ways, either by “retrieving your credentials with the financial institution” and pretending to be you or by convincing you to do it “on their behalf.” Scammers have been known to contact people posing as the police, claiming that their funds are at risk and convincing them to transfer their retirement money into a “safer” account. If someone does so, then there’s no legal recourse, because they are doing so deliberately; the savings are “just gone,” Austin said. It’s important that retirees are aware of this trend and make sure that their accounts are secure.
Set Up Online Access to Your Accounts
First, make sure that you have online access to all of your retirement accounts. This will allow you to monitor your own accounts regularly. If you ever notice any unusual activity or changes that you have not made yourself, contact the institution immediately. Some firms will not reimburse account holders for fraudulent transactions if they aren’t reported during a certain time frame. Establishing online access also prevents someone else from doing so before you can, since thieves have been known to use stolen information to access and retrieve funds. Create your own Social Security account at ssa.gov while you’re at it, so that hackers don’t divert your Social Security benefits to their own accounts. When out and about, do not use public WiFi connections to check your accounts. Unfortunately, hackers can access these networks and steal your personal information by viewing your online activity.
Access your Accounts Safely
Once you have access to your accounts online, make sure you use a strong password and change it regularly. Your password should be something that a hacker cannot easily guess, such as your or a loved one’s birthday. Next, use multi-factor authentication if your institutions offer this step. Requiring multiple verifications to access your account can stop thieves in their tracks, as well as alert you if someone else is trying to access your account. If you are able to, financial author Cameron Huddleston suggests naming a trusted contact. A trusted contact cannot access your account, but your institution can contact them and make sure that it is actually you who is trying to access your funds.
Periodically Check Your Credit Reports
In addition to monitoring your own accounts, checking your credit reports regularly is one more easy thing you can do to catch any unusual activity on your accounts. A credit report shows all accounts that you have opened, balances, and can even find data breaches. A data breach can compromise your personal information and alert you to change your passwords or close a compromised account. A sudden fluctuation in your credit score can also be a sign that something isn’t right.
How to Recognize (and Avoid) a Scam
If you receive a suspicious phone call, text message, email, social media message, or letter that doesn’t seem right, then trust your gut. The caller or sender may not be who they say they are and it’s likely a scam. If you want to be sure, then you can call the company’s customer service line and verify that they meant to contact you. No matter how official the message may seem, that doesn’t mean it’s authentic. Many scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, IRS, or credit card companies. Lawyer and author Steve Weisman says, “The IRS and the SSA will never initiate contact with people through a phone call, so you can be sure that the person calling you is a scammer.” The same goes for Medicare. Your Medicare number is valuable and can enable a criminal to steal health benefits, so if anyone is asking you for your Medicare number, then this is a sure red flag that they are a scammer.
Perhaps the number one rule for protecting yourself against a scam is to never provide anyone with personal information without verifying their true identity. Again, this can be done by hanging up or ignoring the message and calling the company directly. Also, be mindful of your mail. Any documents with sensitive information should be shredded, and if anyone else is retrieving your mail, make sure they are someone you trust. Opting for paperless statements is another safeguard against anyone stealing personal information via your mail.
Anyone who is trying to rush you into making an important financial decision likely does not have your best interests at heart. It’s important to research any company that you plan to invest with. Before buying stocks, you can even check the SEC’s EDGAR database. Be especially skeptical of anyone who is pitching something in a time-sensitive manner, such as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” A true financial advisor will respect your desire to think it over and even encourage you to do so. Before making any important financial decisions, it’s not a bad idea to refer to a trusted professional anyway. That being said, anyone telling you to “leave everything to me” may not deserve that much of your trust. At the end of the day, you should always be your own expert on your retirement and finances.
The best defense against retirement theft is your willingness to take a few extra steps to protect your accounts, such as using multi-factor authentication and monitoring your own accounts on a regular basis. Most of all, remain diligent about who you’re providing sensitive personal information to. These are simple ways to protect your nest egg and gain valuable peace of mind. Insureyouknow.org can help you store all of your financial information in one place so that your retirement accounts and other finances are easy to monitor. Then you can get back to worrying about what’s really important, such as how you’ll be enjoying your retirement.
5 Retirement Myths Busted
May 2, 2023
Once you retire you assume that you will finally have all the time in the world. You’ll travel the globe, spend your days without a care in the world, and have enough income to support yourself in your retirement. The truth is, all of the above information can be false.
The American College of Financial Services Center for Retirement Income conducted a Retirement Income Literacy Survey to test consumer knowledge about retirement income concepts. Four out of five older Americans failed the survey. The following myths have people getting the wrong idea about how they’re going to live out their golden years.
Myth 1: Your Taxes After Retirement Will be Lower
Many aging individuals assume that their taxes will be lower after they retire because they will have a reduced overall income. However, this isn’t always true. The savings accumulated for retirement may be higher than your earnings during your working years. Additionally, sales and property taxes could also be more as well as the cost of living, further increasing spending.
Myth 2: Social Security Covers Your Expenses
Typically seniors rely on Social Security to cover any expenses they may have in a post-retirement world. Despite this, Social Security is not intended to be an individual’s primary source of income support. “Payroll taxes are expected to cover about 78% of scheduled benefits,” said Cameron Huddleston of Go Banking Rates. “If the funding gap isn’t filled, retirees could get lower Social Security payments.”
Myth 3: Health Issues Don’t Affect You Until Later in Life
There are many seniors who believe that they can work as long as they need to past the age of 65. However, most aren’t able to work as long as they need to or want to in order to accumulate sufficient savings. Some are forced into retirement because of medical problems that may affect their ability to work including arthritis, limited mobility, and hearing issues.
Myth 4: Medicare Will Cover Health Care Costs
Medicare is a federal health insurance program designed for U.S. adults who are 65 years of age or older intended to help meet health costs. Some older Americans assume that Medicare will be able to cover all health costs well into retirement. However, this program doesn’t cover several deductibles, copayments, and the cost of care for dental, vision, and hearing conditions. “Medicare does not cover the cost of long-term care, including extended stays at nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Rachel Christian of RetireGuide added.
Myth 5: Retirement Planning Can Wait
One of the biggest mistakes to make is waiting to create a retirement plan at a later age. It is most efficient to start investing money in retirement at an early age so compound interest can increase your retirement accounts throughout your time in the workforce. Saving money in your 20s and contributing 15%-20% of your paycheck is key for ideal retirement savings. However, every decade an individual delays in saving requires them to save a greater percentage of their paycheck.
It is important to know all the facts about retirement when starting to plan for your future. You need to take into account what is contributing to your retirement savings and what steps you need to take to ensure a comfortable living. With insureyouknow.org by your side, you can create an efficient retirement plan without misconceptions of retirement myths that may affect the process.
Jugging: The New Crime Trend
March 20, 2023
Everyone knows what it’s like to have your hands full. It takes special skills to juggle bags, briefcases, electronics, and to-go coffee containers all while trying to unlock your car door. It feels like a badge of honor is earned when you lug all those grocery bags inside in one trip. But all of these distractions can put you at risk of being the victim of a scary new crime trend called “jugging,” and gas station and c-store owners need to be aware of its dangers.
Jugging refers to a robbery that happens after a victim has withdrawn cash from a financial institution or ATM, and then is followed to a second location. It is a relatively new term that hasn’t caught on everywhere yet, but police departments across the United States, from Alabama to Hawaii, have started warning folks about the uptick in cases. Suspects tend to target certain demographics before choosing someone to follow. Women, the elderly, or people who seem to have their hands full are sought out for this type of crime.
“You go to a bank, you conduct business, you’re followed, and then you’re assaulted, or you lock your car and go into another business after the bank errand, and your car is broken into,” said Detective Matthew Judd, a detective in the robbery unit of the Austin Police Department (APD), in a recent press conference.
Avoid Becoming a Stat
On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2022, APD officers responded to a jugging case at a gas station located on East William Cannon Drive. The victim of the jugging had visited a bank and withdrawn cash before pulling over to refuel and purchase items inside. Three suspects followed him from the bank to the gas station, and violently robbed him while he was inside the store. They also assaulted the man who was working behind the counter when he tried to intervene and help the victim.
On Dec. 28, 2022, four people were arrested after a jugging incident at a Texaco on Cluck Creek Trail in Cedar Park. The victim had just withdrawn cash before stopping at the gas station, where they were attacked and robbed. Thanks to the victim’s descriptions of the attackers and their vehicles, police spotted them in Fayette County, where they were pulled over and arrested. Police believe these four suspects are connected to several other jugging incidents around Austin.
But it’s not just customers who are targeted. Gas station and c-store owners have been victims of juggings as well.
In 2018, a woman whose family owns a gas station and check cashing business in Houston was the victim of a violent jugging after she withdrew $75,000 in cash and took it back to her workplace. She was followed from the bank by two vehicles who were both monitoring her financial institution and working as a team. The men in the vehicles ambushed her once she was walking through the gas station parking lot. Her husband ran out to help her, but the assailants beat both victims and ran over the woman with their car. Both victims were hospitalized, and the suspects were arrested shortly after the robbery and charged with felony aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
The idea of jugging is scary, but officials have suggested many tips to keep it from happening to you:
Be aware of your surroundings
Police officers stress that simply being aware of your surroundings is the most important step you can take to preventing being the victim of a crime. If you see someone acting suspicious in or around a financial institution, either leave and come back at a later time, or tell a security guard. Make a mental note of anyone loitering near your bank or where you parked your car, as they may be scouting for potential victims. For example, if you enter a bank and see someone sitting in their car and they are still there when you exit and then follow you out of the parking lot, that’s a red flag.
If you think you’re being followed, get help
If a car pulls out of a parking lot after you, and you think they’re still trailing you after a while, drive to the nearest police or fire station or call 911. Do not drive home or stop anywhere. Try to get a good description of the vehicle and the person driving it, if you can.
“If they think you have cash, they’re going to follow you wherever you go,” said Sgt. Jennifer Taylor, who works in the APD robbery unit. “Our dispatch has been advised about the jugging problem. They are aware, and they should send an officer.”
Don’t be distracted
While you’re in the bank lobby or parking lot, stay off your phone and ditch your ear buds. Juggers tend to look for people they can take by surprise. Walk with your head up and make it obvious you are aware of your surroundings. Try to have your keys ready to unlock your car so you’re not digging through a bag or pockets looking for them – those few seconds are long enough for a jugger to catch you off guard.
Disguise your cash
Don’t make it obvious that you’re leaving the bank with cash. If you have a cash bag, put it in a different bag, like a briefcase or backpack. Even if you just have an envelope with bills in it, be sneaky. Slip it in an interior jacket pocket. Just make sure you do this before leaving the bank lobby.
Security is your friend
If you are withdrawing a large amount of money, ask your bank if they have a security guard who can safely escort you back to your car, or at least give the parking lot a once over. This should make anyone scouting out the parking lot nervous. Once you do pull out of the parking lot, keep glancing in your rearview mirror to ensure no one is following you.
Lock your doors as soon as you get back into the car
Press that lock button the second you’re sitting. Don’t wait to buckle your seatbelt or find what playlist you want to listen to – those are distractions, and a jugger just needs you to be distracted for a second to make their move. Your car door being locked will buy you time to drive off if someone tries opening it from the outside.
“Sometimes in these juggings, the suspect will just run up, open the passenger door, grab the bag, and leave,” says Taylor. “Lock your doors all the time, even if you’re inside.”
Don’t leave money unattended
Taylor says to not make any stops in between withdrawing cash and your last destination, as that’s usually when juggings occur. If you do need to make a stop after withdrawing cash, do not leave the money in your car unattended, even if your car doors are locked. Windows can be broken, and the center console is not a secret hiding spot.
Taylor encouraged people to follow these tips to stay safe.
“No amount of cash is worth your safety or enduring an assault,” she says.
As you start thinking of safer banking practices, consider using less cash and use online baking more, use InsureYouKnow.org – an online information-safe, as a place to safely store details of your bank. This product gives you the ability to access documents, and files remotely – or from the comforts of your own home.