Two heads are better than one. Well, sometimes, except maybe when ya’ll decided to get that Dodge Caravan minivan lemon in 1998 or buy a full dozen doughnuts when it was just two of you in the house. Now you need to make decisions yourself. In our series on how to manage finances after the death of a spouse, we’re exploring tips from FINRA, a reliable financial source. Today, Tip 10: Avoiding Fraud.
They don’t call them scam “artists” for nothing. There is usually a real creative flair that goes along with taking your money from you in this manner. The people who successfully trick you out of your money will have charm and apparent kindness if not good looks and sex appeal to go with it. They won’t be violently grabbing your purse like in a mugging; you’ll be handing it to them with a smile!
Walking the Tightrope of Trust
It’s so hard to know who to trust – emotionally, in your career, financially, at the grocery store. I mean, are those raspberries really organic? Or do they take random batches of the same raspberries and funnel some into regular packages and others into containers labeled organic? Things that seem so real and true aren’t always, and its hard to know who to trust.
When it comes to money matters, the stakes are higher. What if an investment advisor is dishonest and steals your money, or if they are simply disinterested and doesn’t actively pay attention to your money? The outcome = you with less or no money, and at age 50+, with less time left to make more.
Fraud Avoidance Overload
One of the problems I find when I research almost anything in 2020 is that there is too much information, and I get overwhelmed. And it’s often very good, useful, safe information – just a flood of it that takes too much time to read, process, and get through. A tip to solve that problem is if you can figure out one or two trusted sources that present the information you need in a format that pleases you.
For example, you can see in this series of articles that FINRA and the SEC’s Investor.gov sites are go-to sources for me for safe, accurate, timely financial information. It’s important to find non-biased sources that aren’t trying to sell you anything. I realize that “non-biased” is a loaded word – we all have biases. Even computer algorithms have bias since they are coded and set up by humans with bias.
Back to Safety
The best you can do in evaluating the information you consume is to choose entities with as little bias injected as possible. In general, government-run sites like Investor.gov or non-profit groups like AARP offer the kind of information you can reasonably trust. Work to limit your consumption to places like that so that wrong information doesn’t worm its way into your mind.
You can arm yourself with more information via the U.S. Securities and Exchange site on avoiding fraud. FINRA has a free senior helpline to report fraud or ask questions about a potential fraud: 1-844-57-HELPS (4-3577)
We’ll continue to cover FINRA’s tips for widows in the next few articles. Tip 11 talks about ways to get help, places to go for assistance, and people work with for support on with money matters. Thank you for joining me.
Kathryn Hauer, a Certified Financial Planner ™, adjunct professor, and financial literacy educator has written numerous articles and several books including the “11-Step, DIY, Comprehensive Financial Plan Workbook” and “Financial Advice for Blue Collar America.” She works to help clients and readers understand and act on complex financial information to keep them and their money safe. She functions as a strong advocate and guiding light for her clients as they move through a murky and unfamiliar financial world. Learn more at her website.