by Michael Siebenaler
May you be healthier, wealthier and wiser in 2016, especially in the financial realm. In this information age, it’s important to set financial resolutions and to watch for predatory scams.
Reduce debt, manage assets and spend smart.
Formidable and intimidating goals that often become very personal as we tend to associate feelings of self worth with our wealth. Set your 2016 financial resolutions by creating a budget after analyzing the previous year. Which expenses increased and what decreased? Be sure to include entertainment and shopping along with the basics like housing, healthcare, and phone/communications. Anticipate expenses that are likely to rise like transportation, fuel and interest rates.
Organize and customize information in a way that works for you. Make your own forms if needed. Don’t spend too much time adapting to a different record keeping system. Use resources like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/home/) . Research any financial decisions you need to make without revealing key information that could be used by those with bad intentions.
Security is a Must
Make plans that ensure discipline and security. Do not adopt lofty, “pie in the sky” goals that may make you feel worse about your financial status when unmet. Be realistic and keep the information private, while communicating with trusted family, friends, and partners.
Protect yourself against scams by questioning everything…in a respectful way. Staged auto accidents and property insurance fraud are huge target areas. Other big areas include credit ratings/scores, election activities, travel events (e.g. conferences, hotel “deals” and timeshares), identity theft, false employment postings, and disaster mitigation. Many phone scammers have been masking their source, showing a local number on caller ID/phone displays. Demand a contact phone number and the full name of a contact person for a call back. Also, be wary of door-to-door visitors, often a guise for impersonators in several areas (charity, home improvements, lawn care, etc.).
Complex Health Care Issues
Health care decisions, choices and payments are more complex, so, unfortunately, people want to take advantage. For example, some mobile x-ray services charge extra fees (e.g. transportation, set-up, etc.), so the costs are higher than at a hospital. Unqualified people may be administering health care services. If you’re getting health care on the marketplace (a.k.a. Affordable Care Act/Obamacare) then visit www.HealthCare.gov to verify information or call the Marketplace at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Medicare has a reward program for fraud reporting, so visit www.medicare.gov or call 800-633-4227 or 1-800-MEDICARE with questions. You can also check your local State Health Insurance Information Program (SHIP) at shiptalk.org or call Medicare at 800-633-4227.
If you think you’ve been victimized, ask that a fraud alert be added to your credit report, then file an ID theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-438-4338 or ftc.gov/complaint). Credit cards are a target for fraud and theft, especially with the microchip credit and debit cards (a.k.a. EMV cards) now being transitioned into use by banks and financial institutions. Scammers exploit this transition, so make sure your transfers to the new cards are secure. Watch out for any entity asking you for private and personal information. If you are unsure about a local business and want to inquire about them the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org/toledo/) is always available for assistance.