Saturday, December 12, 2015

Holiday Criminals

Porch Robbers

Bad guys are following delivery trucks and stealing packages from front porches.

If you are expecting a particularly valuable package you may want to track it online and try to be home when the package arrives.

Charity Scams

Fake charities and charities with extremely high administrative costs are after your money this time of year.

Most of the charities have impressive sounding names and often focus on veterans, the hungry, the disabled and cute puppies.

Never give a debit or credit card number over the phone, and do not donate unless the charity will send you something in writing that explains their work, and you first check out the charity on-line.

Purse Snatchers, Pick Pockets and the Mall

Shop during the day, shop during off hours when you can park close, and be aware of those around you.

Do not flash cash, an expensive smart phone or anything that makes you a target. Best to not shop alone.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Phony and Phonier

What is making the news in terms of financial abuse of seniors citizens?

Phony lottery winning schemes:

Congratulations, you have won $250,000 in the Australian National Lottery!

Wire $500 for required taxes and fees and we will release you prize!

People do fall for this, even though they never entered the Australian lottery.

Phony IRS calls:

The IRS will never make an initial contact via telephone, you will receive written notice. Never give anyone claiming to be an IRS agent your credit or debit card information, or any other information.

NEVER wire money or give anyone your credit card number unless you are absolutely certain the deal is legitimate.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Seasonal Shopping Tips

This is the biggest shopping day of the year! So be careful. Some tips:

If you shop on-line use sites you know and trust.

Be careful of surfing into unknown sites via pop-up ads.

Be careful of pop-up ads in general, unless you are taken to a known site.

Be very careful with credit and debit card numbers. Remember your credit card has better fraud protection.

A Paypal account ads another level of security. A personal account is free and easy to set up.  

Read terms and conditions carefully before purchase.

Read shipping information carefully. Read insurance-in-transit information if considering a large purchase.

Much of this advice also applies for in-store shopping. Be certain of all key terms of the transaction (returns, warranties, etc.). On smaller purchases a warranty may be a bad gamble, don't get bulldozed by the salesman.

Enjoy your shopping!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Work from Home?

"I make $7000 a week working on the Internet! So can you! It is easy."

No, not really.

When you click the link either some website will ask you for personal information or you will be the recipient of a trojan or virus, usually without your knowledge.

There is no Internet free lunch.

Note: emails from strange places with “click this link” are best deleted immediately, and requests to confirm your password are usually hacker traps.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Annuity Sleaze

There are some good annuity products.

There are a lot of mediocre annuity products.

There are a lot of really bad annuity products.

There are a lot of salesmen who make big money when they sell you the bad annuity products.

There are a lot of salesmen who prey on senior citizens.

A committee of the U.S. Senate is taking on the top 15 annuity companies. Not surprisingly, many of the companies have not been very cooperative.

Not surprisingly, some of the companies have admitted lavish compensation and gift packages for salesmen who push high-priced, low value products. Some of the companies use third party pass-thru operations to disguise what appear to be payoffs. 

Of course, the financial companies swear the buyers are getting good value.

Annuity sales is one of the sleaziest categories in the financial world.  Be very careful.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Funeral pre-need Contracts

At least monthly we see a news article about a funeral home operator convicted of stealing pre-need funeral money from customers.

As a percentage of funeral homes it is very tiny (at least the ones who are caught is very tiny) but the damage to the impacted seniors is very great.

When you do pre-need payments to a funeral home find out exactly how the money will be managed and exactly who will hold the funds. Get receipts. If the answers are not satisfactory do not give up the money.

On a related note…..

Smith and Jones Funeral Home may be have been in your community for decades, and may have been family owned for decades, but now may be owned by a large corporation you have never heard of, and the service you expect may not be the same. Just so you know.

PS: The State of Ohio is currently in the middle of a mess on this issue, including a battle among the members of the state board regulating funeral directors.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Grandparent Scam

Imagine receiving this phone call…….

“Mr. Smith, the is Constable McGarrett from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Your grandson Jacob was picked up trying to return to the U.S. with some marijuana in his pocket. His classmates from Grand Castle University are waiting on the other side of the border hoping he gets released.”

How does a scammer know you have a grandson Jacob who attends Grand Castle University? Probably Facebook. Or the newspaper announcement of your anniversary party. 

“Mr. Smith, Jacob cannot contact his parents. We would prefer not to hold him for prosecution, this is small stuff,  but to let him go we need a bond of $2500.  Jacob is hoping you can Western Union the money so he can go back to school. We can give you a routing number.”

If you ask to speak with your grandchild that will of course be impossible.

Could this scam really work? Almost every day.

A scammer can make a couple hundred of these calls a day. Most people slam the phone down, but if one or two a day bite on this scam, it is a $5000 profit.

Never send money anywhere to anyone without confirming the details. Do not let someone panic you.

The odds of recovering your money? 0%

Friday, September 18, 2015

Your financial adviser probably represents ...... your financial adviser

There is a multitude of types of financial advisers, working in a multitude of companies (banks, brokerages, insurance agencies, financial planning companies, etc.) using various combinations of commissions and fees.

Many are competent, many are honest, and many are fair. Many are not.

Most are not fiduciaries. 

Fiduciaries are held to the highest standards for dealing with your money. Most financial advisers are held to a lower standard, essentially a "suitability" standard.

There is plenty of bad advice to be had, and plenty of dishonest sales recommendations.

A case in point, high cost / mediocre return mutual funds, which are often not good quality but which provide higher commissions for advisers (this also hurts some 401(k) accounts).

The Obama administration is proposing regulations through the Department of Labor to create a higher standard in a retirement plans, a significant change. Problem is, the regulations may go too far, creating more problems than solutions.

We may go from too lax to too harsh, raising the costs of investment advice.

As always, buyer beware. Especially on 401(k) rollovers.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Where NOT to buy a house

For many of us our house is the biggest asset and also our biggest risk.

Some really good advice we heard on real estate is this:

When you buy a house think about the resale possibilities first.

So, where should you never buy a house?

Floodplain or ocean front (unless you can bear the financial risk)

High forest fire risk (this one has been ignored a lot lately in the west)

Fronting a busy four lane, or a two lane likely to become a four lane

Anywhere near an airport

Anywhere near an industrial area, or the truck route to such an area

Close to a college, or close to an apartment complex for college students

On a street where school buses run to load or unload

Backing up to an interstate or busy four lane

Downwind from a “factory farm”  (this is getting tougher in some areas)

In most areas there are still plenty of places to live, but you should be careful about the site selection. Your house is an investment!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Identity Theft Hit Home – IRS edition – part of a series

Those who use the Internal Revenue system to steal money tend to focus on getting phony refunds.

Those who are into credit scams will use your identifying information to open accounts and borrow money, you may not aware of this activity for quite some time. Some will do both.

So where to start?

Don’t blame yourself. Unless you live in a cabin off the grid and pay cash for everything your data is in circulation and it is in jeopardy, usually through no fault of yours. So what to do?

Keep good files, keep them secure and keep vital information close at hand. You will need documents to start making your case.

About an IRS identity theft problem….

You may discover the problem when you receive a notice about how you and your spouse Jane or John Doe received an unwarranted refund. If you get a check you are not expecting, do not cash the check.

Problem is, you are not married to Jane or John, you may be single or married to a real spouse for a long time. So…..

FIRST, pull out your last three tax returns and call the number on the IRS notice. Immediately.

SECOND, check your financial accounts for theft, and start the process of checking your credit report. Consider fraud protection if you do not have it on your bank and credit accounts.

THIRD, file an IRS form 14039. If possible do not wait for the form to arrive in the mail, you or your tax preparer can get a form on-line. File according to instruction via certified mail. Make several copies.

If you have Internet access go to  for a big pile of resources.

FOURTH, if there is money missing or credit reports opened in your name file a police report to get this on the record. More on this in another post.

The IRS is working very hard to counter these problems, but the con artists stay ahead of them.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Scammers Posing as the IRS

This seems to be IRS week.

Con artists and scammers continue to steal money from the unsuspecting with telephone scams. The elderly are often targets.

The scam starts with a stern phone call from Special Revenue Agent Jones of the IRS. A computer program has discovered you owe money to the IRS and it must be paid IMMEDIATELY or there will be severe consequences. You can pay the money with a Western Union transfer or a Green Dot money card.

If the real IRS wanted money from you the first contact would usually be through the mail, there would be a letter and explanatory information about your rights. On a first contact the response time is usually 30 days.
Same for state tax agencies.

So, what do you do?

Hang up, or

Ask the caller for a call back number, tell him your lawyer or CPA will be in touch.

These guys are pros, they will turn up the heat and pressure you to respond. Do not.

NEVER give your credit card, debit card or bank account numbers over the phone to a "government agent."

NEVER send money to the government via wire or money card, the government does not accept money that way.

NEVER give or confirm your Social Security number on the phone (unless you initiated the call to a known phone number).

Always watch your mail for anything hinky alleged to be from the government or a creditor.


IRS Hack Attack

This week the IRS admitted the computer hacker attack was more widespread than initially reported.

Time to panic? Not really. The percentage of taxpayers hacked is still very small.


Hacking and identity theft are still a big problem, and identity thieves often use data to file bogus tax returns for refunds.

Best advice? Watch your mail. If you receive anything from a creditor or a government agency that looks strange follow up immediately (to an address or phone number you know you can trust). And see our next letter on telephone scamming.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It Must Be True! I Saw It On the Internet

The Internet is loaded every day with financial and investment advice and market news.

Problem is much of it is…….

too generic

too narrow, too broad

factually wrong


not customized to your situation

Many of the predictions would lead you astray, in the past five years we have seen predictions of market crashes, hyperinflation, deflation, gold at record levels, a silver boom, another economic meltdown and other really bad projections.

So where do you get good financial advice?

A series of posts will address that and many related issues.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Internet Auto Insurance?

Watching television these days includes a constant stream of auto insurance advertisements.

Cheaper!  We are cheaper! We are the cheapest!

And shop on the Internet!

Is cheaper auto insurance always better?

Probably not.

If you have a home (or need renter’s insurance) your insurance should probably be bundled, which accounts for a large portion of the population. Do you need umbrella liability? Boat or camper insurance?

And having a real living breathing insurance agent can often be helpful.

Buyer beware.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Identity Theft Series - Paper is for Shredding

For $30 or less you can buy a small household shredder that will fit on a plastic waste basket. This is a major tool in your fight against identity theft.

Your trash can may be golden to people who need to steal identities to commit all sorts of financial crimes.

For those with larger amounts of confidential paperwork, a larger shredder can be had for a reasonable amount.

These days a good quality shredder does not cut strips, it cuts strips and then crosscuts the strips into confetti.

Don't have a shredder? A good pair of scissor and some enthusiastic cutting is almost as good (cutting paperwork in half does no good, determined thieves will reconstruct paper work from pieces). The paper must be cut into many, many pieces.

Any paper work with identifying data, even if it is several years old, may be used be identity thieves to search out the rest of your data and to begin misuse of your data.

Don't let your trash become your worst enemy.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Medicare = Medi-scare?

With the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so much in the news, and talk of change coming from all directions, what is all of this doing to Medicare?

Should you be worried?

Short run – very few of the changes will impact you or even be noticeable

Medium run – these relationships will change

....the relationship of providers with the government, and to a lesser extent

....your relationship with your doctor and other providers

Long run – the Medicare system will be subject to major changes, some will be noticeable to you and others not – 

.... some of the changes may raise your out-of-pocket or the quality of your care

So should you be worried?  Yes.   Long run.

In the long run the federal government is asking for

Higher quality
More prevention
Chronic disease management
Fewer services to lower costs
Lower cost per service

Problem is, can the government accomplish all of these goals without wrecking large parts of the system?

Time will tell.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You Have No Privacy

Unless you live in a cabin in the woods with no phone or electricity, and never use the Internet, you have no privacy.

Credit reporting agencies, data sweeping and mining companies, your own bank and credit union, Internet browser and email companies, health care providers (within rules)  and the federal government are all involved in sweeping and storing massive amounts of data. Even your grocery store courtesy card results in data storage and marketing analysis.

This is not directed at terrorists or criminals, this is directed at everyone.


If you want to do something quietly, do it in cash. However, using or moving large amounts of cash will get you in trouble also (a future post will be published on the perils of using your own cash).

Always assume everything you do involving money or paper ends up in data files for future use.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Identity Theft Series

Identity theft and related crimes are becoming a bigger and bigger problem as the thieves use both high tech and low tech means of obtaining and abusing your identifying information.

Now you have to worry about your federal income tax returns being the sources of identity theft, sometimes directly through the IRS.

So we are starting a series of posts on defending yourself against identity theft and what to do if you are a victim. Watch for two posts a month.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Anyone with any connection to the Internet has to deal with passwords, and the passwords can be a nuisance, especially for sites you do not use daily.

(Same with PIN numbers.)

Do not use the most common passwords which are usually

Yes, people commonly use “password” as a password.

A good password has at least eight (8) digits including both letter and numbers.

A good password is difficult to guess. Your house number and street name are not difficult to guess.

A good password is a word and number combination that is easy for you to remember but would not be easy for anyone else. Some event from your past perhaps (not your wedding anniversary, too easy) you can easily remember.

Some passwords should be longer, our banking password has more than 25 digits, but is a combination of words and numbers we can easily remember. Maybe that is a little extreme.

For sites you rarely access, but are important, keep a written list of password locked up somewhere in your house. Use the same email when you set up passwords, so if you need to make a change you know which email will get the password change link.

Passwords on critical sites should be changed every six months. If you have any hacking trouble change critical passwords immediately.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Broadcasting Your Vacation

Thanks to Facebook and social media you can broadcast your vacation.

You can let everyone know where you are going and how long you will be out of town.

Including the burglars!

We suggest you wait until you get home to brag about your vacation and post your photos, or at least be more vague about the dates you are out of town.

Make it a little tougher for the burglars.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Sad Case of Ernie Banks

Ernie Banks was a legendary baseball player with the Chicago Cubs.

Late in life Mr. Banks, estranged from his wife and suffering from dementia, "signed" new estate planning papers giving his "caretaker" power-of-attorney and making her heir to his entire estate, cutting out his wife and his children.

Banks died recently and not surprisingly the estate has become a lawyer festival.

Theft and fraud-by-deception by caregivers is rampant, ranging from small thefts of cash and jewelry to systematic looting of estates.

More on this as the case develops. At this point, everyone is innocent until the facts as found and revealed.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Anthem Inc. (r) Hack

Anthem Inc., the giant health insurer and service company for many Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, was subject in January to what may be the largest data hack ever.

Anyone with a primary or secondary plan from any of these carriers may have data in jeopardy.

The find out what Anthem Inc., is doing to protect victims log on to

cross posted:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The IRS Scam

You answer the phone.

“Hello Mr. Smith, this is Bob Jones, special revenue collection agent for the Internal Revenue Service. I am calling about a serious tax delinquency matter.”


“Mr. Smith, there are delinquency problems with your 2010 and 2011 federal income tax returns. We have a special program to resolve these matters, and if you cooperate with me for just a few minutes we can solve the problem today.”

This has your attention. But it is a scam.

How do we know?

The Internal Revenue Service never makes an initial contact via telephone. Taxpayers are always contacted by correspondence (there may be a few extreme exceptions but those are very, very rare). The correspondence gives detailed information and calculations and a legitimate call back number.

When you talk to someone from the IRS on the telephone, you should have initiated the call in response to some form of correspondence. And besides, the IRS does not have “special revenue collection agents” and you may notice Bob Jones has a very thick foreign accent.

“Bob Jones” will probably offer to settle the delinquency at an extreme discount,  IF  you give him bank account or credit card information or some form of payment today.


What do you do?

Ask for a call back number and tell Bob Jones your CPA will call him back.

Or ask for a call back number and tell Bob Jones your son will call when he finishes his shift with the state police.

Or ask for a call back number and tell Bob Jones your attorney will be calling him.

Or ask for an employee identification number and tell him you will call the IRS 800 number.

Bob Jones may not give up, and may get very aggressive. 

Hang up the phone.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Announcement - Our New Blog

This web log or “blog” is dedicated to providing information to protect senior citizens and has been created by Ealey Services Inc. and  Ealey Publishing Inc. Our purpose is to help protect seniors from financial scams and cons and to provide useful consumer, financial and health care information.

The authors bring with them decades of service to seniors.

Your comments are always welcome!

Questions? Contact us at