November 12, 2019

When It Comes to Information, It Pays To Be Cautious

I can’t stress this enough.  Every time that I speak to a group of senior citizens or community groups, this is one of my main topics.  Being social is great and people do like to talk but be extremely cautious when you get an unsolicited telephone call or are sent an innocent looking email.  Regardless of whom the party says they are or whom they represent, this information can all be falsified including the caller ID shown on your telephone.  Remember that they are calling you and how can you verify that they are what they say.  In many cases, you cannot verify this information.

Be cautious when the calling party wants to conduct a “survey.”  Sensitive information can and usually is mixed in with innocent appearing questions.  True, many marketing firms conduct legitimate surveys over the telephone but I don’t like them and I make it a point in telling them that I do not give out this information over the telephone.  Never fill out written questionnaires that ask for family information, wage and salary income, etc.  If you bought the product and want to register it, do so but avoid all the marketing questions that accompany the registration card.

The Internet can be your friend or your enemy.  Unsolicited emails or spam are deluging web sites today.  The majority of spam emails come from overseas.  Many are so poorly written that they contain major spelling and grammatical errors.  Yet, many people respond to them all the time.  In most cases it is a scam to solicit either money or information from you.  If your PC system has a spam folder, let them go into the folder and let the system delete them for you.  Opening an unsolicited email or an attachment to the email can open you up to receive a virus.  This virus can attack your operating system and destroy the information that you have stored in your personal files.

Be cautious of written correspondence.  The writer is looking for information.   Letters are being prepared now that appear to be coming from the State or the Government or one of the major banks.  Mail fraud ranks right behind Internet fraud today.  Never give out any sensitive information to anyone.  When in doubt, call the number if there is one listed on the letter and ask for more information to be sent to you.  Most legitimate banks and credit unions will never solicit information from their customers via mail or telephone.

Periodically purge your wallet or purse.  Never carry your social security card.  Never carry multiple credit cards.  One or two cards should suffice.  Every few months, lay your cards on a copy machine and keep a record of all the cards you carry. Keep this information in a safe place.  This will become extremely valuable should your wallet or purse be lost or stolen.

I would be very cautious when using or supplying information on one of the many social web sites that are so common today like Facebook and Twitter, etc.  On Facebook people openly list information like their gender, birth date, hometown, and school.  Some users include even more personal embellishments like email addresses, phone numbers, and relationship status.  All of these things make it easier for a predator to stalk you in real time.

Lastly, we all know that there are more charities in existence than we individually can ever support.  This does not make them bad causes, but we must use some financial restraint in today’s world.   Charities mail hundreds of thousands of solicitations each month to mailing lists comprised of all types of people.  Be cautious in responding to these requests for money.  Pick a charity or two that you know and support these charities.  The rest will have to get money from someone else.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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