The Equifax Data Breach: What Does It Mean for You?

It appears we hear of new data breaches every day. From Arby’s to Saks Fifth Avenue, in 2017 alone there were 27 before the recent breach at Equifax. What differentiates Equifax from the other entities is that Equifax is one of the three largest credit agencies in the U.S. It is unsettling, to say the least, but there are steps you can take to protect your information:

Check to see if your information was compromised.

Equifax has set up a site dedicated to helping consumers determine if the breach has put their information at risk — www.equifaxsecurity2017.com — and is offering all consumers one free year of their TrustedID Premier program. They have also clarified the language in the terms of use that led to confusion regarding consumers’ right to file suit against Equifax with acceptance of this free service:

“The arbitration clause and class action waiver included in the TrustedID Premier Terms of Use apply to the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products, and not the cybersecurity incident.”

Always closely monitor your credit card statements.

If your information was compromised, call your credit card companies and inquire as to whether they recommend changing account numbers and/or issuing new cards.

Review your credit report.

AnnualCreditReport.com provides one free credit report per year.

Consider freezing your credit

The Federal Trade Commission has provided these guidelines regarding a credit freeze. A credit freeze does not:

  • Prevent you from getting your free annual credit report.
  • Keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. However, if you are doing any of these, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it is best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.
  • Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.

Equifax is currently waiving their credit freeze fee. Each of the three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – charge between $5-$10.

The Nuclear Option

If you do find yourself affected by this data breach to the point of identity theft or other life-altering implications, you can file for a new Social Security Number.

There is nothing pleasant about any of these activities but please take a moment and do your due diligence for your protection. We are also available if you have any questions. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

Canon Capital Wealth Management Continues Financial Literacy Seminars with “Financial Self-Defense” May 19, 2016

Financial fraud is on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s annual report, Identity theft incidents alone increased 47% in 2015.

Learn how to steer clear of financial fraud at the second in our series of Financial Literacy Seminars: Financial Self-Defense. During our time together we’ll help you improve your ability to spot the warning signs of financial fraud by sharing:

– How to identify common situations where consumers might be victimized
– Case studies of consumer financial abuse
– Ways you can protect yourself from financial fraud or abuse

The Financial Self-Defense Seminar will be held at our Hatfield office Thursday, May 19, 2016. For your convenience, we are offering this seminar at 3:00-4:00pm or 5:30-6:30pm.

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We expect this seminar will be both educational and eye-opening, so please feel free to bring a friend, relative or colleague. Please RSVP by Friday, May 13, 2016 to Jen Norman. You may RSVP via email or call 215-723-4881, ext. 207 to let us know whether you would like to attend the 3:00pm or 5:30pm session.

Our Financial Literacy Seminars are for adults of all ages with any level of financial knowledge. They’re ideal for individuals desiring to improve their ability to manage their financial resources effectively to meet their goals and gain a lifetime of financial security.

Canon Capital Management Group provides a single source of financial and business services to help you make the right decisions. For more information, visit www.canoncapital.com or call 215-723-4881.

Financial Self-Defense – Avoiding IRS Scams

During the recent Financial Self-Defense seminar presented by our Wealth Management division, we focused on the three main areas of financial fraud: preying on senior citizens, tax-related fraud, and general financial fraud.

With tax-related fraud, the most prevalent attempt comes from people or entities who call on the phone to try and fool you into thinking they are the IRS and that you owe them money. The IRS does not operate that way. In fact, here are six things the IRS will never do.

 

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Six Things the IRS Will Never Do

#1. Call to demand immediate payments over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.

#2. Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.

#3. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.

#4. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.

#5. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.

#6. Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for non-payment.

If you think you might have experienced this type of fraud and have questions, let us help you determine next steps. Learn more at www.canoncapital.com or call 215-723-4881.

“Financial Self-Defense” for Senior Citizens

With incidents of financial fraud on the rise, the second session in our Wealth Management division’s Financial Literacy series focused on “Financial Self-Defense.” The hour-long seminar focused on three main areas of financial fraud: preying on senior citizens, tax-related fraud, and general financial fraud. Today’s recap covering red flags for senior citizens is the first in a series of blog posts recapping the seminar.

Top Ten Red Flags of Senior Citizen Financial Fraud

#1. “He said he was certified to help people like me.”

If the financial advisor is telling you it’s normal procedure also to be the custodian of your account, be aware that this is not a financial management best practice. Two different entities should serve these roles.

#2. “Don’t worry about the details; they’ll just confuse you.”

Wrong. You have the right to get a second opinion from a trusted professional. If you don’t understand what is being said, don’t buy it.

#3. “You’re Invited! Wine, Dine and Learn!”

You have probably been invited to at least one of these events. You’re promised a nice meal and a presentation of the advisor’s services. Be aware, this type of practitioner usually counts on high up-front commissions. Don’t feel obligated to please by making a decision you could regret later.

#4. “You don’t want what you leave to your family or charity to be eaten away by taxes or fees, do you?”

Don’t give in to this tactic, designed to pressure or scare you into making a decision that is not in your best interest. Just because a so-called expert recommends it doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

#5. “Do you need more income from safe fixed-income investments? We’ll show you how!”

Beware these promises of high returns on small investments. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not legitimate or safe.

 

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#6. “He’s one of us. I’m sure you can trust him.”

Always reserve the right to do your research. Even if an advisor is recommended from within your social circle, take the time to learn more, get a second opinion from an objective third party. Don’t confuse familiarity with trust.

#7. “I’ll take care of all the paperwork.”

Sounds perfect, right? Wrong. You want to see and understand all paperwork dealing with your money. The final sign-off should always be yours.

#8. “All of my clients in this fund are making a lot of money.”

Don’t feel pressure to follow the masses. In most cases, this tactic is designed to benefit the advisor more than you. Make sure the money others are making isn’t yours.

#9. “I’ve got a much better idea for your money.”

This perspective is a likely precursor to what’s known as “churning,” or excessively trading your account so the advisor receives more commission. Get as much information as possible about their proposal and get it checked.

#10. “Stop paying the bank for your house. Let the bank pay you!”

A reverse mortgage might sound like a great deal but be careful. Don’t sign over the deed to your property and know that you don’t have to take the payment in a lump sum. As a homeowner, you have rights. Make sure you know what they are before entering into this kind of agreement.

In any dealings with a financial advisor, there is no need for you to feel rushed or pressured into making a decision. Transparency and third party accountability are key. If you have questions, we would be happy to help. Learn more at www.canoncapital.com or call 215-723-4881.

Top Ten Red Flags of Financial Fraud

The recap of our recent “Financial Self-Defense” seminar concludes with a general overview of the red flags to be wary of when dealing with a financial advisor. You always have the right to pursue a second opinion and to take the time to think things over.

Top Ten Red Flags of Financial Fraud

#1. “We’ve known him forever. I’m sure you can trust him.”
This is the “friends and family” prospects model. Your friend’s nephew is just starting out at a financial firm. Do you mind if he meets with you? It’s not impolite to decline such a meeting or, if you agree, do your homework. Make sure this person is someone you truly would trust with your finances.

#2. “Just sign here. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Never leave blanks on your signed financial paperwork. It might be tempting but be present for the completion of your paperwork.

#3. “This is just for my special clients.”
Beware any offer labeled as “private” or “exclusive.” It rarely is. Ask whether your investments are regulated or supervised by independent third parties.

#4. “I’ll send you all of the investment reports.”
Make sure you receive reports from your advisor and the independent third party custodian of your accounts. Those reports should match.

#5. “Make the check payable to me.”
Your check should be made payable to the custodial entity. Never give a financial professional a blank check, no matter how trusted your relationship.

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#6. “I know it’s a difficult time, but you need to decide now.”
Take your time. If you’ve inherited some money, it’s recommended to take up to one year to decide how to manage these funds. Feel free to bring a trusted friend along to your appointment. Trust, but verify.

#7. “This one’s a no-brainer. You can’t lose.”
There’s prudence in financial management, but nothing is certain. Take your time. Get a second opinion. It’s your money.

#8. “This offer is only good today.”
Pressure selling is a common practice in the brokerage world. If anyone tries to force you into a decision using this tactic, steer clear.

#9. “I can replace that with something better.”
Understand how a financial professional earns their pay. Before agreeing to any transaction, carefully consider the charges you’ll incur and the timing involved.

#10. “It’s very complicated. No need to bother you with all the details.”
Don’t buy what you can’t understand. Make sure the advisor explains everything about your investments.

In addition to avoiding all of these red flags, it’s a good idea to designate a trusted friend or relative to handle your investments should something happen to you.

If you have questions about your investments or would like a second opinion, we’re happy to help. Contact us online or call 215-723-4881.

 

Miss the first two Financial Self-Defense: Financial Fraud Recaps? Read them now:

Financial Self-Defense: Avoiding IRS Scams

Financial Self-Defense for Senior Citizens