Don’t fall prey to financial fraudsters – On the Money with Jarryd Neves

Jarryd Neves
On the Money. Budding stock market investor Jarryd Neves, of BizNews, sends out an invitation to everyone who wants to ask questions about share investing – but is too embarrassed to ask. Write to [email protected] and tune in for his regular Monday column: On the Money

As the world and technology evolve, so does crime. Fraud, for example, has come a long way from the Nigerian prince/email scheme. That’s not to say that it doesn’t lure many unassuming victims into its web each day, though.

The internet and social media have made it easier for conmen and fraudsters to exploit the naive. And they’re not just looking for your credit card information or a few thousand from your bank account – no, the modern criminal can delve deep into your personal information and even steal your identity.

One of the most common forms of fraud is phishing. Don’t know what that is? Well, phishing is the practice of trying to obtain very sensitive data – your ID number, address and other important personal details – through impersonation of a trustworthy website. Most of the time, you can spot the emails from a mile away. Often, they tell a story of how your bank account or investments are under threat and in order to prevent anything from happening, you need to share your log-in credentials or passwords.

Some are far more convincing, however, and many people fall prey to these scams yearly. Prevention is always better than cure, though. Look out for the subtle differences to determine whether something is real or fake. Install anti-phishing add-ons and never give your information to a site you do not trust. Another method – which may be annoying – is changing your passwords often. This may take more effort but will keep your important information secure from potential fraud initiatives.

Phishing can lead to identity theft. This happens when criminals obtain your personal details and ‘assume’ your identity. Most fraudsters make purchases in your name and spend money before moving on to their next victim, leaving you with a financial mess. Some, however, commit heinous crimes under your name – like stealing cars, conning other people – leaving you in the lurch.

More often than not, it takes months to rectify the damage done by identity theft. Destroyed credit scores, the hassle of closing and opening new bank accounts and myriad other grievances are just the tip of the iceberg. Many victims of identity theft fall into depression, with some even reporting that they felt suicidal after falling prey.

While most signs of identity theft only show up once you’ve fallen prey, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself. The most simple preventative measure, of course, is safeguarding your passwords and important information. That doesn’t mean online only. Be careful what you do in public too. According to nerdwallet.com, using public Wi-Fi to conduct online banking is also a big no-no. “Hackers may be able to see what you are doing when you use free public Wi-Fi. If you choose to use public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network service to create a secure connection.”

Today, due to environmental concerns, most people receive their income statements, financial records, and personal information via a password-protected email. However, there’s the minority who still prefer hard copies of important documents. Each to their own, but ensure your personal documents are always secured or destroyed when thrown out. The chances are minimal, but you don’t want your financial information falling into the wrong hands.

Last week, I asked you to send me your finance and investment queries. Here, Stefan Janse van Vuuren* of Brenthurst Wealth Management, shares expert advice by providing answers to your questions.

Elena H. asked,
 
How do you work out your net worth? Is this an important figure with regards to planning for your future?
Stefan answers,

Your net worth is calculated by adding all the assets you currently own, minus all debt outstanding. Assets include investments (e.g. shares, unit trusts, and other funds), business interest, cash in the bank, retirement funds, and property. Debt includes your outstanding home loan, credit card debt, student loans, shop cards, car loans, and any other debt. Therefore, you can think of your net worth in a similar vein as a company views its balance sheet.

The size of and importance of one’s net worth varies from person to person and should be viewed relative to their personal circumstances such as age, level of income and personal goals. It can be a useful tool to measure your net worth to track progress towards reaching your financial goals. By knowing where you are currently relative to your financial goals will help you to be cognisant of spending habits and saving, ultimately improving your chances of reaching your short and long-term financial goals. Retirement remains a major financial goal for many and what you plan to spend in retirement will dictate how much you need to accumulate, or the net worth you need to aim for. Read more about the total amount you will need to save/accumulate based on your proposed budget in retirement.

Have a question about share investing? Write to me at [email protected].

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