The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety

November 15, 2016

I’ve written several posts about identity theft and online fraud, particularly focusing on young adults/teens and protecting your financial assets. Below is a post from “As Our Parents Age” by Marti Weston. She highlights a great new resource for helping parents with technology and online safety, because according to Pew Research, 60% of Americans over 65 are on the internet. To learn tips on internet safety for older adults as well as yourself, check out the Guide to Online Safety by ConnectSafely.org

As Our Parents Age

connect-safely-for-seniorsAdult children often find themselves providing technology support services for their aging parents. Now there’s a new, research-based resource to help.

The Connect Safely organization has recently published The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety. The publication contains important information, it’s free, and it’s simple to download as a PDF file. Adult children may want to print the booklet and share this short and easy-to-read guide.

The Seniors Guide to Online Safety addresses a range of issues that are critical for senior and elder adults to consider and understand as they go about online activities. The guide includes safety and privacy tips, information on a range of scams, guidance about securing wifi, and advice about protecting identify and financial information. The goal is to educate older adults with information that comes from experts.

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Change Passwords to Protect Yourself

October 10, 2016

Most of us collect too many passwords to remember.

But if you’re concerned about identity theft or have already experienced an online security breach, you know it’s a must to change passwords routinely to thwart hackers.

Here are the three best moves to make your passwords safer:

1) Use a password with one uppercase letter, three numbers and a symbol, because it makes it harder to break. So forget your birthday, address or that easy-to-remember code word.

2) Don’t use the same password for everything. Easy access for you….and for hackers too.

3) Try a password management system, which is storage for all your passwords for credit cards, bank accounts, social media sites in one place. Some are free and others have a fee.

For a nominal fee, use one like Wallet, www.agilebits.com or Keeper Password Manager at the Google Store. Find free ones at: www.roboform.com, www.lastpass.com, www.dashlane.com, or www.keepass.info.

 


Is Crowdfunding Good for You?

September 12, 2016

If you are an entrepreneur or investor, crowdfunding may pique your curiosity. But the crowdfunding craze may not be what you think.

In its original form in the early 2000s, crowdfunding was collaborative fundraising, associated with starting a website to raise money for a product or one-time event. New entrepreneurs, crafters, wannabe authors, fundraisers, and even kids seeking charitable donations could start a webpage on a site like Kickstarter.com or Indiegogo.com to solicit for new projects or heartfelt causes.

Friends, family, colleagues, and even strangers who saw the site donated money in support. Perhaps these fans got a t-shirt, music album or their name in the list of credits. Perhaps not.

Crowdfunding has advanced. It’s now a financing alternative–lucrative seed capital for thousands of new ventures.

How significant is that?

Plenty. In the last 5 years, both crowdfunding platforms and campaigns more than doubled year after year as contributions from funders increase and one-time project sites morph into new businesses.

Billions and Billions

Results from a survey by Massolution of 308 active crowdfunding platforms revealed $2.7 billion was raised, funding more than 1 million campaigns in 2012. That’s an amazing 81% increase over 2011. Similarly, the 2014 Massolution survey shows more growth–1,250 platforms raised $16.2 billion, and expectations are $34.4 billion for 2015.

By September 6 on Kickstarter–just one platform–you can see that 111,572 successfully funded projects have already pulled in $2.58 billion from 11 million backers.

Instead of sending $10 or $50 in exchange for feeling good about supporting a new project, funders may now want a return for their “investment.” It’s similar to what an investor in a start-up company or early-stage “investment” opportunity wants. Not surprisingly, this is referred to as “equity crowdfunding.”

Reacting to the potential investing risks/rewards, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) got in the picture with compliance rules (via the JOBS Act). This fulfills part of SEC’s  mission to protect average consumers (and seasoned investors) who may be at risk of losing money without fully understanding the “investment” to which they agreed.

Seed Money Donation or Investment?

This does not mean crowdfunding platforms are gone for the small publisher or little guy. But it does mean you should be on the lookout to know the difference between a crowdfunding donation and an investment, whether you are the solicitor or the solicited.

If you are donating, look at the project as you would any other charitable cause or event.

     • Research the project and solicitor’s reputation.

     • Understand where your money goes.

     • Consider you are contributing for the goodwill and not getting something in return.

Investors Be Aware

If you are investing, scrutinize and treat the project as you would any other investment:

      • Consider the risk. The bigger the reward, the greater the risk.

     • Realize you must be an “accredited” investor, with a limit to the amount you can  invest. The SEC offers this protection, since it now regulates start-up crowdfunding ventures that promise a return, just like new companies issuing stock.

     • Understand you probably won’t be able to sell or liquidate this investment.

Entrepreneur’s Checklist

If you are the creator of a project, here are three things you should know before soliciting via crowdfunding:

1) The sites/portals (like Kickstarter and GoFundMe) take a fee, usually a percent of the amount you collect.

2) Not all projects get funded.

3) Your ideas are not protected.

Before You Send Money

If you find a crowdfunding project you like, consider these things before you contribute or invest:

• Basically funders assume the project’s risk. Many projects are often from start-up companies now. If you are considering this as an investment, you could lose all your money.

• If you are looking to be a donor, realize you are at the mercy of the project creator to fulfill their “campaign” promises. Some will not, even if they raise enough money.

• Not all crowdfunding portals or projects operate by the same rules or etiquette. Do your research on the projects (the webpages) and also research the portal (the entire site, which is hosted by a business.)

For more information, use the SEC’s investor site here.

As always….buyer beware!

 

 


Are You the Bank ATM for Your Kids?

August 1, 2016

It’s mid-summer…with plenty of opportunities for kids to spend money at every turn. Instead of feeling like your kids’  ATM and dispensing cash for entertainment, snacks or vacation trinkets, why not use those “Dad, can I have…” moments for mini money lessons?

Instead of handing out money for the “want of the day,” why not give kids an amount to manage and make some choices? Kids don’t have to handle large amounts—whether it’s your money or theirs—to get plenty of financial experience. Even those seemingly insignificant financial choices give kids of all ages a better chance to succeed with important ones later. Kids who manage money for their wants/needs often don’t spend as much, or they make different buying choices.

Do you dismiss those small and relatively unimportant choices, like…

  • Not bending down to pick up a penny or a nickel off the ground?
  • Leaving coins at the concession counter so you don’t have heavy pocket change?
  • Choosing a name brand snack over a less expensive store or regional brand?
  • Buying a $3 water and leaving the nearly full bottle in your seat at the stadium?
  • Buying a few $1.99 mobile apps that get little use?
  • Developing a nightly takeout habit?
  • Not putting part of a small summer paycheck into a savings account – because it isn’t earning much interest anyway?

Choices quickly become habits, habits become a lifestyle…. that usually lasts a lifetime. Take a few minutes this summer to help your kids develop a saving mentality, no matter how small the amounts. Just like spending habits, good savings habits are hard to break. Which do you want to cultivate?

Find ideas for saving and free downloads on websites like this one or Feed the Pig by the American Institute for CPAs.


Freeze Your Credit or Use Fraud Alert?

July 2, 2016

Freeze your credit report if you are worried about someone opening new accounts with your name or you want to limit companies that can access your credit information.

Your freeze remains in place unit you ask the credit reporting bureau to remove it or temporarily lift it. Usually, it costs you to stop the freeze. The fees for a “thaw” range from $5-10, based on where you live.

To place a freeze, you must contact and provide your basic information to all three of the credit reporting bureaus. Be sure to ask how would lift the freeze and the fee to do so.

Equifax – 800.349.9960

Experian – 888.397.3742

TransUnion – 888.909.8872

A credit freeze does not affect your credit score, nor does it prevent you from getting your free annual credit report. No one can open new accounts in your name or access your credit, however, a credit freeze does not stop companies from sending you credit offers based on prescreening your credit either. To stop those frequent offers, contact 888-5OPTOUT or http://www.optoutprescreen.com.

Another way to foil an identity thief from opening new credit accounts in your name is to request a fraud alert. This doesn’t lock your credit report, but creditors must take steps to verify your identity. To place a fraud alert (which is typically free), contact just one of the credit bureaus above and the others will be notified as well.

 

 

 

 

 


Are You De-Sensitized?

June 6, 2016

As identity thieves and data breaches become more common, consumers become more complacent.

Experian’s 2015 report revealed that almost one third -32% – of consumers do nothing if a bank or retailer reports that data may have been compromised. Don’t ignore those warnings! Take steps to monitor your credit regularly.

Review Credit History. Get your credit report annually from the three major credit bureaus that track your credit use. You can order your credit report from each credit bureau once every 12 months by completing the request form at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228. You can order all three at one time or you may choose to stagger the throughout the year. (You get your credit history, not your credit score.)

Several other entities advertise free credit reports or free credit scores, but they are not part of the legally mandated program, and there could be strings attached. So be aware of who you are asking.

Fix Errors. What if you find errors in your report?  It’s not uncommon, so take these steps to fix those errors:

1)  Contact in writing the lender or debt collector that reported the wrong information and ask for a correction.

2)  Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to report the wrong information.

3)  Send a written copy of a dispute to the credit bureaus. They are required to investigate and tell you the results.

The procedures for reporting errors  can be found on the credit bureau websites:

http://www.Equifax.com

http://www.TransUnion.com

http://www.Experian.com

Keep Up with the News. Read your mail! When you are notified about a data breach from your credit card issuer or bank, follow their advice or contact them for more information. There may be other steps to take – like getting a  new card – to avoid compromising your credit.


Be A Millionaire Day is May 20

May 4, 2016

You know, they have a national holiday for everything…and yes, there’s one for aspiring millionaires too. May 20 is Be A Millionaire Day, a day for you to be motivated to make some financial plans.

It’s not all that complicated to accumulate a million dollars. Simple, yes. But not easy for most of us. Spending is easy, saving is not. Isn’t there always something we need to pay for or buy? Of course. The typical American spends $1.22 for every dollar he/she earns, so it’s a paycheck-to-paycheck existence for many.

Several surveys indicate a majority of Americans have saved nothing, or very little, for things like an emergency expense, college/education, or retirement. In fact, the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual Retirement Confidence Survey indicates 6 out of 10 Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.

What’s holding you back from saving a million? Chances are, it’s your lifestyle.

Very few of us make one major financial decision that sets up success or failure to be a millionaire. Instead, it’s our ordinary, day-to-day choices of how we spend a dollar. Choices quickly become habits, habits become a lifestyle. So, why not resolve to change a spending habit on “Be A Millionaire Day” and feather that savings nest egg? Here are a few habits to get started:

• Add to a savings account every month via an auto-deduction from your checking account. Pick an amount that works in your budget. No budget? Build a budget, baby…even small amounts add up! Check out several budgeting tools here.

• Open an investing account if you don’t have one. Review investments that make sense for you. Developing an investing habit puts you on the path to accumulate a bigger nest egg. Learn about investing and find good educational tools at iInvest.org.

• Start or add to a tax-deferred account like a 401k, Roth IRA or IRA (Individual Retirement Account). To decide if a Roth IRA or traditional IRA is for you, consider the pros and cons here.

• Pay off some debt, particularly student loans and/or credit cards. Eliminating some of the interest you pay on revolving debt is a great savings strategy. See more tips at the Feed the Pig site by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants).

• Build a financial team. If you don’t have a financial advisor, start looking for one you can trust. Pay attention to all those initials and designations on an advisor’s resume, and match the expertise to your needs. A good place to check out an advisor is Broker Check.

Start taking control of your finances today….Happy “Be A Millionaire Day!”


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