Every year, there are new scams of which we need to be wary. Typically, these scams aren’t complicated, but often the same con is done a little differently.
Given the way technology permeates every aspect of our lives, these new tricks can look wildly different and even innocent. Keep an eye out for these scams in 2023.
Puppy Dog Scam
The puppy dog scam is designed to tug on your heart strings. This scam claims to have a puppy or puppies for sale, which almost certainly do not actually exist, and asks for money upfront to secure possession of the puppy. But victims of these scams will never receive the puppy and will find themselves out hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars.
If you are interested in getting a puppy, check with your local animal shelter or do a search for reputable breeders in your area. Avoid ads for pets on social media sites and emails from unknown sources — and never pay any money for a pet you haven’t met in person.
Due to COVID, QR codes have become especially ubiquitous these days. From restaurants to campsites, QR codes are used for all manner of transactions and sharing of information. However, not all QR codes are safe.
According to the FBI, criminals have been using QR codes to target unsuspecting victims and steal their information by sending them to malicious sites. These QR codes are sometimes placed over legitimate QR codes or just posted as flyers on the side of the street. You may even have one sent directly to your phone, claiming that you’ve won a cash prize or a voucher of some kind. Always validate the source of these types of messages; this is when it’s important to remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” If it doesn’t check out, block the number and delete the message. Do NOT click on any links or scan any QR codes you receive from them.
We all want to be healthier. Sometimes, weight loss can be a part of navigating that road to a healthier lifestyle, and some cons take advantage of health and weight-loss goals by offering shortcuts to quick results. Unfortunately, there aren’t shortcuts to true results, and these too-good-to-be-true claims are just that. Many of these scams will boast quick weight loss in a matter of a week or two, luring you with free trials and unfounded guarantees, but the only thing losing weight will be your wallet. Don’t give out your card information, delete the emails and ignore the posts.
One-Time Password (OTP) Bot
This fancy sounding scam is actually pretty straightforward. The scammers send you an automated text, email, or phone call with a recorded message saying you’ve made a purchase or maybe that there were unexpected charges made to your account. Then they will ask you to authenticate your account information to prevent these charges from happening.
It preys on your desire to stop these scams, and so it can be difficult to avoid. However by punching in your authentication you’re actually allowing their scam to begin, not preventing it. One way to spot these scams is to pay close attention to the phone number. A common tactic is to “spoof” a number that looks familiar to you. If you see this, there’s a very good chance it’s a scam. You should hang up and verify with your bank or credit card. Call them directly and check if there are any erroneous purchases being made on your card for yourself. Whatever you do, do not send an authentication code to random incoming calls or messages.
Scams can take many forms these days, but they’re always trying to do the same thing: gain access to your personal information, and ultimately your money. Sometimes it’s via email, sometimes it’s via a puppy. At the end of the day, the best way to avoid scams is to be aware of them. That’s why it’s important to stay abreast of the more common scams from one year to another. Remember, regardless of the scam, most will try to impact you in some emotional capacity, whether that is through cuteness or fear. They’re designed to make you feel compelled to act, even against your better judgment. If you find yourself in this situation, take a beat, analyze the situation, and verify with a trusted source. And never give out your personal information unless you can explicitly trust the source on the other end.
Ten years ago, Id never have thought about writing about digital legacy planning. But when I think about my digital assets (photos, documents, music, blogs, business records, etc.) and my digital accounts (emails, bank accounts, subscriptions, etc.), I know Ill want to provide for someone to handle them (1) in case I lack capacity to manage them, or (2) after I die.Think about it: the larger my digital footprint, the larger my digital legacy. While I am only on Facebook and LinkedIn, I imagine many readers are also on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, as well as dating, job search, and affinity websites. What happens to these accounts after one dies?Do I want to preserve or eliminate my digital presence? How do I get off of Facebook, LinkedIN, Instagram, Twitter, etc.? For example, Facebook allows users in the US to designate a legacy contact who can take control of your account after their death. Few other social media do. Or do I want to remain there in perpetuity (as a zombie)? (One shocking statistic suggests that in 100 years, there will be billion dead people on Facebook). What about passwords, photos, emails, texts and business information that live on after I die? These, too, are part of this process. A durable power of attorney and/or a will or estate plan can designate a trustee or executor to access, modify, delete, and/or archive, your digital data. But she or he cant do this unless you have provided them the authority to do so and alist of your digital accounts and assets and how to access them.Most states have passed a version of the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, which allows a digital asset custodian to disclose digital asset information when requested by a fiduciary who needs access to the information to fulfill fiduciary duties.But heres the kicker: Who actually has the skill to manage our digital assets and accounts? Your spouse who is executor of your estate? Your brother who has power of attorney to make decisions for you if you lose capacity? I wonder. Digital legacy management may call for a new occupational specialty with a skill set not many of us possess.
Technology is constantly improving, which means that cybercrime is on the rise. As an agent, its more important now than ever before to protect yourself from the dangers of cyberspace. The National Association of REALTORS (NAR) has created a checklist that lists cybersecurity measures you can take to keep yourself and your business protected. Heres an overview of what it has to say.Email and Password HygieneYou most likely use your email and a variety of other services everyday to conduct business, which means that your accounts might contain a lot of personal and confidential information. Its easy to forget about securing your accounts when you access them day in and day out, but this is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself from cybercrime.According to NAR, your login credentials are especially important to protect. You should carefully guard login and access information to your email and any other service platform you use during the transaction, while also making sure that the usernames and passwords are different for each account. For example, if a hacker accesses one of your accounts, you dont want them to easily access any others using the same login information. In addition, your passwords should be long and complex, with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that would be hard for any person or computer to guess. Finally, NAR recommends using two-factor authentication to give your accounts that extra level of security. This requires you to give two forms of identification to access your accounts so that hackers cant get in, even if they know your password.When it comes to general email hygiene, NAR recommends that you be careful with both the information you send and the information you receive. When sending emails that contain sensitive information, you should use encrypted email, a transaction management platform or a document-sharing program to protect your information from being easily stolen. If you receive an email that contains any unknown attachments or links, dont click on themthey could contain malware that infects your device. And whether youre on the sending or receiving end of an email, NAR recommends that you avoid doing business over unsecured wifi, where hackers can easily access your personal data. Other IT-Based Security MeasuresWhile its a good idea to secure each of your accounts, its equally important to protect your devices operating systems and software. NAR emphasizes that you should always keep antivirus software, firewalls, operating systems and programs active and up-to-date to receive the highest level of protection. Its also a good idea to regularly back up the data on your device. By doing this, it will be stored in a safe place in the case that a virus infects your device or someone hacks in and erases your information.Another way that NAR suggests securing your device is by avoiding any suspicious links or applications. If you receive a text message from an unknown sender that contains a link, dont open it or your information could be stolen. If youre downloading an app, make sure that its legitimate by researching it beforehand so that it doesnt breach your privacy or infect your system. And if you ever need an IT provider, work with an attorney to review their policies and contracts before allowing them access to any of your devices.Law, Policy and Insurance ConsiderationsSo far weve talked about some everyday measures you can take to improve your cybersecurity. But there are larger considerations you should also keep in mind to make sure that youre protected in the long-run. According to NAR, your attorney can help you develop a written disclosure warning clients about the possibility of cybercrimes resulting from their transaction. In this disclosure, you can recommend certain steps for sellers and buyers that will protect their personal information and finances. In addition to a disclosure, NAR recommends that you also develop policies relating to document retention and destruction, cyber and data security and breach notifications and responses. NAR believes that you should stay up-to-date on those documents and coverages you already havefor example, your insurance coverage. Ask your insurance agent about additional options you can add to your plan, such as cyber insurance and crime protection products. In addition, remember to stay up-to-date with your states laws regarding personal information, cyber and data-related business policies and other legally required security-related business practices. This will all help you and your clients stay protected and will save you time and stress in the long run.Its easy to put off the small steps that can protect you from cybercrime, but dont wait! Unfortunately, its only becoming more common in todays digital space. If you dont start protecting yourself now, you could be a hackers next victim at any moment. By implementing the items from NARs Cybersecurity Checklist, you can begin living with peace of mind that you and your business will stay protected.
By Tiffany Williams, Managing Executive, FineMark National Bank & Trust office at Shell Point Retirement CommunityFalling victim to financial abuse can be a stressful and scary situation. As the senior population continues to grow in our country, financial elder abuse will continue to grow with it. Sadly, during hard economic times, the prevalence of financial exploitation increases. Fortunately, this type of crime is completely preventable.The staff at FineMark National Bank & Trust has compiled a list of ways you can protect yourself from financial abuse:Never give your Social Security number, account numbers, or other personal financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call.Dont open emails from unknown sources.Beware of any notice claiming you have won a lottery.Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers.Review your accounts regularly for unauthorized charges.Report lost or stolen checks immediately.Order copies of your credit report once a year only use Equifax, Experian or Transunion to generate these reports.Lock up your checkbook, account statements, and other sensitive information.Do business with companies you know are reputable.If a stranger is sending you a payment, insist on a check for the exact amount. Never accept a check for more and wire the difference back.Never let someone pressure you into agreeing to loan terms before youve had a chance to review them in writing with a trusted advisor.Report any unusual account inquiries you receive whether by phone or email to your bank, who will take measures to protect your account.Carefully choose trustworthy people to act as your agent in all estate planning matters.FineMark National Bank & Trust has an office on The Island at Shell Point Retirement Community. If you have questions about this article, contact us by phone at (239) 461-5999.