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Keeping Your Smartphone & Tablet Safe

Many smartphones and tablets are preset to find and join networks automatically. This may seem like a good idea as it could save you on data fees, but be careful.

Many public networks are unsecure and can easily be breached by hackers.

You can solve this problem in two ways.

First, turn off the option on your device(s) to automatically connect to networks and turn on the option to ask you first. Second, simply make sure your phone or tablet is off when you’re not using it. Hackers can’t access a device if it’s off the grid.

The Top Phone Cheats of the Year

It would be a rare person who has not had at least one attempted scam via phone (cell or land line) this past year.

Law enforcement says these are the top scams of the year gone by:

  • “Tech support worker” claiming they need access to your computer remotely to remove viruses. What they’re really going to remove is your personal information.
  • “The IRS” claiming they’re about to take you to court or have you arrested unless you make immediate payment via wire transfer or debit card. Tip: The IRS NEVER makes phone calls. Official business is always conducted by mail.
  • “Utility bill collectors” looking for immediate payment or else your utilities will be shut off. Again, real utilities do not operate this way.
  • Phone numbers on your caller ID that are very close to your own number. Scam artists know you're more likely to answer an unknown number that's close to your number. If you don't recognize the number, let it go to voice mail.

When in doubt, get off the phone and make contact yourself with the agency the original caller claimed to be from.

Solar Scams

Many of us, for reasons both environmental as well as financial, are contemplating “going off the grid” and installing solar panels on our homes.

Before you take the plunge, you should be aware of a potential scam that has popped in this field. It involves companies that offer to install solar panels on your home for free. The deal is, they own the panels and they will bill you every month, just like the power company.

Now, these companies promise that your bill will be substantially less than what you’re currently paying, but there have been reports of people actually paying more.

So before agreeing to anything, do your homework. Find out if other friends or family members have done business with the company. Research them online with the Better Business Bureau and things like Yahoo reviews. Finally, read your contract carefully and make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Reputable businesses are always glad to do business in the sunshine.

401(k) Lost & Found

During our working life, most of us change jobs. Many times. If you had a retirement account at a former employer that you lost track of, we may have good news.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Steve Daines have sponsored a bi-partisan bill to create a searchable online “lost and found” for abandoned retirement accounts.

In the meantime, the Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation operates a searchable database of pension accounts and expects to have 401(k) accounts added to it by 2018. The catch with the PBGC is the information is incomplete. It relies on companies voluntarily forwarding retirement account information to it. The Senate bill will create a comprehensive database.

The Golden Fleecing

You see the ads for this kind thing on the cable channels in the wee small hours of the morning. Buy gold or silver as a hedge against bad economic times. But many of the companies touting gold or silver are really only making one entity rich: themselves.

Here’s what you need to watch out for:

  1. The Bait Frequently, these companies use deceptive marketing to make you think you’re getting gold or silver at only a slight mark-up over the current market value.
  2. The Switch Once you are actually speaking with a salesperson, they will try and switch to investing in “collectible coins.” You’re told that these are appreciating much faster than gold or silver.
  3. The Catch Often you will be sold coins at a markup so high, you will never recover what you’ve paid.

One of the oldest adages in investing is true here – invest in what you know. If you don’t know about collectible coins, don’t invest. Or seek out a local expert in your area and consult with them face-to-face.

On Gilligan's Island, what was the professor's full name

Roy Hinkley
O'RyanCordes Marketing