Friday, October 5, 2012

Tis The Season (Almost)

It never fails to amaze me how early retailers start the holiday season. With Halloween coming at the end of the month, then Thanksgiving the month after, shelves are springing up with Christmas decor right after you pass the gauntlet of costumes, candies and tombstones.

Another thing that starts springing up is the even scarier scam artists. These frightening fiends will do whatever they can to separate you from your cash, personal information or piece of mind.

Here are a couple of tips to hopefully save you from falling victim to these desperate demons.

1. Don't click on links in emails from "your" bank, credit card carriers or the folks that picked you to win the Uganda Lottery. If there is a problem with your financial accounts, your bank will call or send you a letter. They will never e-mail you. If you have doubts, go to the website for your financial folks that you have used before or call them.

2. Medicare open enrollment starts on October 15th and ends December 7. There are some scammers that will advertise themselves as "Medicare Agents". There is no such thing. Say no thank you and shut and lock the door. A call to the police may be a good idea if you live in a senior housing development or complex. If they are an insurance agent, their card and any flyer's must have their license number on it. If it's not there, they are a fraud or at the very least have disobeyed the state regulations. That goes for estate planners to. They should be a licensed attorney, insurance agent or sometimes a CPA. You can check them out on the web or over the phone.

3. Sales calls that try to make you feel desperate to protect yourself by buying their product. I've heard of all kinds of fakes on this one from insurance to overdraft protection, office supplies and alarm systems. I tell them I already have someone for that (since I do) and hang up. Some of these calls may be ok, but I don't buy anything by phone. If they start asking for social security numbers, banking info, drivers license etc., hang up. You don't know who called you or who you are giving this info to.

4. Mail offers for credit, insurance, and other financial services should be shredded before being thrown out. I have trash divers looking for "cans and bottles" on my street too. That does not mean they could not find that application for a new bank account and decide to fill it out and change the mailing address.

Above all, have fun and relax. Yes, these fiends are out there. They will try to get you excited or upset so that you will give them what they want just to make them go away. Don't. Take a deep breath, calmly say no thank you and hang up, shut the door, delete the e-mail and enjoy the company of family and friends.