Safeguarding Your Wealth Against Fraud

Ken Hargreaves, CFP®, AIF®, AWMA®, CRPC®

February 2024 Update:

A new phishing scam is targeting the clients of major financial institutions such as Schwab. Scammers are duplicating sponsored Google search results, directing unsuspecting users to fake login pages that steal their credentials, giving the scammers access to client accounts.

To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, you have several options: 

  • Type this: www.schwab.com into the URL bar at the top of your browser instead of typing ‘Schwab’ into Google. 

  • Bookmark Your Sites: Similar to the suggestion above, you know you’ll be going to the correct website.

  • ​Hover your mouse cursor over the Google search result: the link’s true URL will be revealed at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. 

  • Reach out to your financial advisor: Whether it’s me or another advisor, you can be sure you’ll be sent to the correct place. 

If you have any concerns or questions about this scam or any of the ones listed below, please reach out. 

Thanks, 

Ken. 

Fraud protection. Most people think of fraud protection as an unauthorized charge on their credit card. If you’re lucky, most banks automatically alert you, the card gets frozen, and your bank graciously sends you a new one in the mail. As unfortunate as this is, it’s not the only area of concern regarding fraud. It extends to some unbelievable schemes that I’ve witnessed first-hand with clients and I’d like to get the word out to as many people as possible.
As these tactics become more advanced and prevalent, it’s my goal to alert and educate the public in order to identify and avoid these deceptions. So below, I’ve provided a few red flags and ways to help avoid them and actions you can take if you feel you’ve encountered a fraudulent scheme. And please, have a conversation and action plan with an elderly parent, grandparent, neighbor, or friend.

Don't Have Time? Watch the Video!

The Scale of the Problem

Taking a step back, the issue of fraud is quickly becoming a plague that’s only spreading. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), an astounding $27.6 billion was lost to fraud between 2018 and 2022. The difference between the years is even more startling – there was about a five times increase between what was lost in 2018 versus 2022. And these are only internet crimes.
An October 2023 Federal Trade Commission report revealed more staggering losses between January 2021 and June 2023: Social media scams led to $2.7 billion in reported losses, phone calls at $1.9 billion, emails at $0.9 billion, and text messages at $0.6 billion. And it’s only going to get worse.

The first thing to be on the lookout for are the red flags.

Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, we realize we ignored our gut feelings, the warning signs, or let our emotions get the best of us. A firm understanding of the red flags can help us identify them before it’s too late. Here are some of the most prominent signs you’re being set up.

Suspiciously Attractive Offers: You can assume that any phone call offering an investment opportunity is a scam. Politely ignore them. 

Questionable Communications: Suspicious emails or calls are likely just that – suspicious. Avoid clicking links on emails that could download software that can steal your information. 

Urgent Calls to Action: A false sense of urgency will push you into hasty decisions. Be skeptical. A financial advisor will never declare an investment has to be made immediately. 

Sudden Payment Requests: If a familiar organization requests payment through unfamiliar channels, think again. 

Requests for Personal Data: Your personal information is just that – personal. Don’t offer it to any unsolicited emails or calls.

Financial Scams

The elderly and non-technical among us are prime targets for financial scams. Here are a few ways scammers can scare, intimidate, or simply trick you into sending money or handing over secure information to access your bank accounts or computer.

The ‘Grandparent’ Scam: 

Beware of urgent calls from someone claiming to be a relative in crisis, needing immediate financial help.

  • How to react: Pause and verify their identity by asking questions only the real person would know.
  • What to Do: Contact the family member directly through known numbers or channels to confirm the situation.
  • Have a trusted contact that you can bring into the conversation to help.  A second set of ears can be helpful in emotional situations.  

Pretexting: 

You get an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from a trusted company like Microsoft or Apple. 

  • How to React: Be skeptical of unsolicited tech support calls. Genuine tech support teams typically do not initiate contact to fix issues.
  • What to Do: If in doubt, hang up and contact the company using a trusted number or their official website. Never give remote access or personal information to unverified callers.

Phishing Scams: 

You get an email from someone posing as your bank or other official institution. Be skeptical of emails asking for your details, even if they appear official.

  • How to react: Verify the sender’s email address and any links by logging into your bank account through a separate window.
  • What to do: Contact your bank’s support directly for validation and report any suspicious emails as phishing attempts.

Advance Fee Fraud: 

Someone offers a large sum of money, but only if you make a small upfront payment as a fee, processing payment, or tax. Common with sweepstakes or lottery scams.

  • How to react: Be wary of offers that require an upfront payment to receive a more considerable sum of money, as legitimate deals or inheritances simply don’t operate this way.
  • What to Do: Never make payments or share information based on these promises. If it’s not your financial advisor or attorney approaching you, it’s probably a scam.

What Can We Do?

Protecting ourselves from the onslaught of upcoming attacks on our identities, bank accounts, and computers won’t be easy. But there are some easy steps we can take to reduce the chances of becoming a victim.
  1. Always keep your computer, phone, and software current. These updates fix holes that hackers exploit to gain access to your information. 
  2. Use two-factor verification with an Authenticator app, such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator (both apps you can download to your phone). So, even if a hacker does gain access to your passwords, they won’t be able to log in to your accounts. 
  3. Use a password manager that randomly creates passwords, and never use a password more than once. In fact, you shouldn’t even know your passwords! You should only memorize the one password necessary to unlock the passwords in your password manager. Also, change your passwords often. 
  4. Install anti-virus and anti-malware software onto your computer and update it regularly. The money you spend on the software is undoubtedly cheaper than a costly hack. Finally, stay tuned in to new technologies, scams, and vulnerabilities. It’s vital that you learn how to use your phone and computer in a secure way, especially as you age. 
  5. Finally, always verify information. We’re stepping into an age of cloned voices and deepfake videos made by artificial intelligence. If you get a video or message from your financial advisor, attorney, or CPA asking you to do something, even if it doesn’t seem suspicious, verify the message just in case. Person-to-person encounters with trusted advisors are the best way to go. You can’t fake that kind of interaction! 

In Conclusion

The scams mentioned in this paper are just a few drops in the bucket. Bad actors are attacking us from all sides – online, over the phone, on the streets, and even through the mail! They use our goodwill to scam and defraud us out of our hard work, wealth, and legacies. We can’t prevent people from trying, but we can stay as informed and cautious as possible.
We are just as dedicated to protecting your wealth as we are growing it. If you have concerns or questions about protecting your wealth from scams, we’re here to help. Click the button below to schedule a consultation at your convenience.
Disclosures

Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment or strategy will be suitable or profitable for a client’s portfolio. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author/presenter as of the date of publication and are subject to change and do not constitute personalized investment advice.

A professional advisor should be consulted before implementing any investment strategy. WealthGen Advisors does not represent, warranty, or imply that the services or methods of analysis employed by the Firm can or will predict future results, successfully identify market tops or bottoms, or insulate clients from losses due to market corrections or declines. Investments are subject to market risks and potential loss of principal invested, and all investment strategies likewise have the potential for profit or loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Please note: While we strive to provide accurate and helpful information, we are not Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). The information in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as tax advice. It is crucial to consult with a CPA or tax professional to discuss you

Author

  • Ken Hargreaves, CFP®, AIF®, AWMA®, CRPC®

    A Florida native, and full-time Sarasota resident, Ken founded WealthGen Advisors, LLC after spending more than fourteen years in the financial advisory industry. Ken holds multiple industry designations, as well as a master's degree in Financial Planning. Prior to founding WealthGen Advisors, Ken spent almost a decade in New York and then Texas as Vice President at The Capital Group, a $2T global investment manager serving institutional clients and pension funds.

    View all posts

Join Our Newsletter

We send updates regularly. Get notified when new resources and financial insights are available.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Latest Posts

Latest Video

Play Video

Annuities: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Free Resources

Our Blog

Insightful articles that reflect our low-cost, "stay the course" investment philosophy.

Our Videos

Free videos that cover complex topics in an easy-to-digest explainer style.

Choose your advisor

Ken Hargreaves - Wealth ManagerKen Hargreaves - Wealth Manager

Ken Hargreaves
CFP®, AIF®, AWMA®, CRPC®

Founder, Wealth Manager
Shane Klemcke - Wealth ManagerShane Klemcke - Wealth Manager

Shane Klemcke
CRPC®

Wealth Manager