Investor Education | Don't get hooked by phishing scams

Are you getting pop-up messages on your computer or mysterious e-mails asking for your Social Security number or other personal data? You may have been targeted by a "phishing" scam intended to steal information from unsuspecting victims.

The financial consequences can be devastating. What's more, you may have to spend months or even years trying to clean up the mess.

Common theme: The pop-up or e-mail appears to be posted by an organization or individual you are familiar with, such as your own bank, someone in your e-mail address book or even the government. It requires that you update, validate or confirm certain information. Some phishing e-mails threaten penalties or cancellations if you do not respond.

The message then directs you to a website that looks legitimate. This fake site is used to trick you into revealing personal information that con artists can use for their own purposes or to commit crimes in your name. And the FBI and IRS are warning consumers about even more sophisticated attacks. Phishing topped the IRS list of its "Dirty Dozen" tax scams to watch out for in 2017.

A little common sense can go far, but it is easy to be caught off guard by a phishing scam. Consider these precautions:

  • Do not reply to messages requesting personal or financial information. Similarly, do not click on any links in the message. A bona fide company would not ask for this type of information via email. If you have concerns, contact the organization using a telephone number you know to be genuine or initiate a new web browser session at the company's actual website.
  • Use antivirus and antispyware software. Have these updated periodically. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track online activity without your knowledge. Antivirus software may protect you from inadvertently accepting unwanted files.
  • Set up a computer "firewall." The firewall blocks outside communications from unauthorized sources. This is especially important if you have a broadband connection. Operating systems and browsers may also offer free software patches to close the "holes" in the system.
  • Do not e-mail personal or financial information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide information to the organization, look for indicators that the site is secure. Caveat: Such indicators are not 100% foolproof.
  • Review credit card and bank account statements to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files. These files may contain viruses or other software that can be harmful.

Finally, if you believe you are the victim of an identity theft scam, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at Don't delay

What's your comfort level?What's your comfort level?

Despite some optimism, too many Americans are still feeling uncomfortable about saving for retirement. According to new research from NerdWallet, an independent online financial site, 40% of individuals between the ages of 45 and 54 say that they are concerned about their lack of retirement savings, while 30% of Americans admit they are saving zero for retirement. Yet only 32% of employees with a workplace retirement plan intend to increase their plan and IRA contributions in 2017. If you save just 1% more per year for the next decade or so, you could potentially increase your nest egg in a substantial way, depending on your age and income. That may provide additional confidence for your financial future and future retirement.


This newsletter/advertisement is produced for our clients, friends and associates through an arrangement with WPI Communications, Inc. for the representatives’ use. Although the editorial content is professionally researched, written and edited, neither our firm nor any of its agents, representatives or associates make any representations regarding the accuracy of the content or its applicability to your situation. The information in this communication is not intended as tax or legal advice. In accordance with IRS Circular 230, the information provided herein may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Any tax advice contained in the body of this material was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of 1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions, or 2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent advisor.

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