Good Investments
that are Right for You

Identity Theft: Even Personal Finance Professionals Can Get Fooled

Deep fake. Deepfake and AI artificial intelligence video editing technology. Face of a person in editor. Machine learning concept. Fraud picture swap.

It sounds like the plot of a best-selling thriller.

A well-known New York-based personal finance writer puts $50,000 in cash in a shoebox and delivers the money to a fraudster impersonating an agent with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

For Charlotte Cowells, it was a several hour ordeal she’d like to forget. Cowells was tricked into believing that she was under federal investigation. She was told that her home was being watched, her laptop had been hacked, and her family was in danger. Failure to cooperate would, she was assured, result in the CIA freezing her accounts.1

When some people hear the story, they think, “How could anyone fall for that?” But the con artist made himself seem credible by knowing Cowells’ Social Security number, her home address, and the names of her family members.1

 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21

To her credit, Cowells turned the identity theft story into an educational moment by sharing the intimate details–and potential red flags–she wished she had seen before handing over the taped-shut shoebox full of cash. It’s a good reminder that anyone can become a victim. It’s also a reminder to consider taking a couple of action steps if you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t feel right.

Break the flow: Trust your “spidey sense” if something doesn’t feel right. Intuition is powerful, but emotions can trample common sense when events unfold quickly. Cowell admitted that she had several opportunities to hang up the phone during the ordeal.2

Say a prayer: Asking the Lord for guidance during a crisis might provide a calming moment that can lead to greater clarity.

Call us: While it may seem like events are unfolding quickly, there may be enough time to ask for help. Cowells story unfolded over the course of a day. In fact, she had enough time to text her husband and tell him that her identity had been stolen.

Not all “advisors” are really advisers: The Investment Advisers Act outlines the roles and responsibilities of financial advisers. Some “advisors” (spelled with an “or” vs. an “er”) position themselves as advisers, but they may not be bound to a fiduciary standard that was established as part of the 1940 Act.

Remember: Legitimate financial institutions will never call and demand immediate action. On its website, the Internal Revenue Service says, “The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment.” Banks and other financial institutions follow similar guidelines. If they do contact you, you can always say, “Can I call you back using a publicly available phone number?” The answer should always be yes.2

Knowing a few steps to take may help you better manage fast-moving events if you find yourself in this type of situation. But remember–if you have a vulnerable moment and get tricked, please contact us as soon as possible. Don’t be too embarrassed to call. We might be able to help.

  1. NYPost.com, February 15, 2024
  2. MarketWatch.com, February 17, 2024

Other Recent Articles

A Serving of COLA with Your Social Security

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.

Dollars & Degrees: The Cost of a College Degree

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.

Key Findings from the EBRI Annual Retirement Survey

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.

Other Articles Related to: ,

Dollars & Degrees: The Cost of a College Degree

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.

Key Findings from the EBRI Annual Retirement Survey

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.

August Is Make-a-Will Month

One benefit to self-insurance is that you can pocket money that you have paid in insurance premiums. Learn more about whether self-insurance is a concept you'd like to explore further with your financial adviser.