MyMoney Building Block – Protect

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

In addition to maximizing the money we have coming in from our paycheck and developing a good strategy for where to put that money, we have to be able to protect those assets from people who may try to take that money from us, sometimes through illegal and fraudulent means. As we move into an increasingly digital world, there are new ways for unscrupulous individuals to attempt to take advantage of general public.

The Protect building block focuses on the various threats to our financial well-being and how to protect against them. Included as part of this block is information on how to keep track of your financial information and how to look for discrepancies, how to spot and avoid potential scams, how to prevent identity theft, and keeping abreast of your credit record and credit score.

The site has cataloged over 400 resources across various federal agencies with information relevant to this building block. In particular, visitors interesting in learning more about how to protect their assets should look to this article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on keeping and managing household records and this article from the Federal Trade Commission on how to deter, detect, and defend against identity theft.

The article containing information about household recordkeeping is a prime illustration of the value of the portal in serving as a single point of access to financial management information. It is unlikely that someone would go to the Department of Agriculture for advice about money management, and resources such as these would be lost without a site like MyMoney.Gov.

Clinic Comments on Proposed Rule to Prevent Financial Exploitation

On November 28, 2016, the Investor Advocacy Clinic submitted a comment on SR-FINRA-039, a proposed rule to prevent financial exploitation of vulnerable investors.  The comment, drafted primarily by student intern David Hsu, responded positively to several changes to the prior version of the rule, including changes that were suggested by the Investor Advocacy Clinic in December of last year when the rule was first proposed.

While continuing to support FINRA’s goals of protecting vulnerable investors, the clinic noted that the proposal would be improved with a few changes.  The clinic recommended that:

(1) FINRA require members to act on a reasonable belief of exploitation before placing a temporary hold on an investor’s account;

(2) FINRA oversee mandatory training to help firms and brokers identify financial exploitation and outline member responsibilities when it is present;

(3) a trusted contact be informed of their designation and be asked whether they wish to serve in that capacity; and

(4) the safe harbor provision not protect a member from violations of FINRA Rules 2010 and 2150.

The clinic’s full comment is available here.

MyMoney Building Block – Save & Invest

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

As the name of the Save & Invest block suggests, this building block focuses on becoming educated and developing good habits with regards to saving and investing. With savings, many people have trouble saving money for emergencies, and the site provides resources with tips and tricks to develop good habits with saving money. With investing, the site discusses what considerations need to be made before investing money, how to check the credentials of financial professionals before hiring them, and when and how much one should invest.

The website provides links to over 150 resources. Some of the highlights include an article about investing in bullion from the FTC, a Treasure Department initiative entitled “Ready.Save.Grow” to help people save money including using products offered by the U.S. Treasury, a primer on resources available through the SEC to check out brokers and investment advisers, and a presentation from the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau about making the best financial decision when it comes to lump sum pension payouts.

Whether we are looking for help gaining discipline in saving for emergencies, wanting to find out how to best save for our kid’s college education, or simply want to maximize our financial picture for retirement, the resources provide easy access to much of the information available to us to help us make the best decisions possible.

This building block is in many ways the most in-depth and involved block, and someone interested in maximizing their understanding of the MyMoney five would do well to spend more time focusing on the resources available here.

Resources for Managing and Growing Your Money – MyMoney.Gov.

By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern

In 2003, Congress established the Financial Literacy & Education Commission, a collaboration between over 20 federal agencies with the purpose of strengthening the financial capabilities and access to financial services for Americans.

Since then, the commission has, among other things, created a website to help educate people about how best to manage and grow their money. The commission catalogs resources across all participating agencies and, over the past few years, has broken down the basics of successfully managing your money into five building blocks, which they describe as the “MyMoney Five,” which consists of the following: 1) Earn, 2) Save & Invest, 3) Protect, 4) Spend, and 5) Borrow.

Keeping these building blocks in mind when making day-to-day financial decisions will help you achieve the best possible results with the financial resources available to you.  Over the next five blog posts, starting with this one, we will go over each of the basic building blocks and the core themes in how they contribute to your overall financial picture.

MyMoney Building Block – Earn

The Earn building block focuses on making the most of what you earn by more fully understanding your pay and benefits. Most employees do not really understand or review the various withholdings to their paycheck. Additionally, there may be workplace benefits that you can take advantage of to maximize your financial picture, from making the most out of your healthcare benefits, to using the education and training benefits offered by both the government and your employer.

The MyMoney website provides links to over a hundred resources in educating people about these concepts. Of particular note is that not only are there resources for adults, there are also materials suitable for kids from K through 8th grade to help them to start understanding basic concepts about finances, to help both parents and educators prepare the next generation for managing finances.

Ransomware: How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

By Becky Clapes, guest blogger

While anyone with a computer is at risk for a ransomware attack, any business that has customer information stored is especially vulnerable. It can cost a business a lot of money and can even shut down a business completely. It can also harm customer security.

Here are a few simple ways the FTC has suggested to defend against ransomware: Continue reading

Ransomware: What is it?

By Becky Clapes, guest blogger

According to the Federal Trade Commission, ransomware is a type of virus that can be downloaded on to your computer and hold your computer “ransom.” The hacker is essentially kidnapping your computer: accessing your photos, documents, personal information and holding it against your will until you pay a lot of money to get it back.

Hackers will encrypt files on your computer, making them impossible to open without an encryption key. The only way to get the key is to pay the hackers hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Some will even delete files from the victim’s computer if payment is not made within the specified time period.

In the past year alone, ransomware incidents have hit an all time high, particularly targeting health care organizations. One particular incident in Southern California took down a hospital’s network for over a week, making it impossible for staff to access their emails and some patient information.

Most ransomware viruses are delivered through email scams (around 91% of all ransomware attacks). The user usually has to click a link in an email which will then download the ransomware to the user’s computer. Another way ransomware can end up on an individual’s computer is through clicking on an infected ad on a website. This method is especially scary because the virus can be attached to an ad on an otherwise trusted website.

For more information on ransomware, see here or here.  And be sure to check back in with us tomorrow for some tips to avoid ransomware attacks.

Pension Plan Scam, Beware!

By Becky Clapes, Guest Blogger

Recently, the North American Securities Administrators Association released a warning to retirees about bogus pension investments. The scam operates when investors give funds for cash advances and pension holders turn over future payments for an immediate lump sum cash payment. Continue reading