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CBS This Morning: Free Credit Freezes

Americans can help fight identity theft by freezing their credit – now free of charge – at the three main credit-monitoring services. This new policy is part of a law called The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act. Over a year ago, a hack of one of those credit services, Equifax, affected nearly 150 million people and exposed personal information including names, social security numbers and birth dates. I joined CBS This Morning to discuss the importance of freezing your credit, how to do it, and what to do if you are experiencing fraud.

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Identity Theft Prevention One Year after Equifax

Identity Theft Prevention One Year after Equifax

It has been one year since credit monitoring company Equifax announced that a “Cybersecurity Incident” had exposed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license and credit card numbers, from nearly 148 million Americans, which means that it’s time for an identity theft prevention check in.

Remember Equifax?

Remember Equifax?

Remember how freaked out we all were nine months ago, after the Equifax data breach? Human nature is a tough enemy, when it comes to your personal data security and privacy. When a news event flares up, we pay attention and then as the issue recedes, we can get a bit complacent. That’s why June, aka National Internet Safety Month, and the recently enacted European Union General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) make now a perfect time for a refresher on cyber security and privacy.

Tax Season Identity Theft

Tax season is like the Super Bowl for identity thieves and that means that you need to be on high alert for scams. To help break down some of what you need to guard against, we're joined by security expert Adam Levin. Here's the scams at the top of his list:

IRS Phone Scam

  • Where someone pretending to be from the IRS contacts a consumer stating they owe back taxes and threatens them with jail time if they don't pay. These fraudsters prey on fear and many consumers give in, paying a bogus fee through prepaid card, wiring money or even an iTunes card. Golden rule - the IRS never calls, emails or texts. If you receive these calls, hang up.

W-2 Scam

  • Imposters are using phishing schemes to target the HR departments of businesses asking for W-2 or W-9 information. In these spear phishing schemes, the emails appear legitimate but they are designed to steal important financial documents. If you receive this email or text, don't respond.

Child ID Theft

  • Fraudsters target children's data because they have clean, pristine credit profiles and they can use this data for a host of ID theft schemes, including tax related, medical, financial and even criminal. 
  • Parents need to be on high alert for child ID theft and should create a credit profile for their child and then freeze it.

Medicare and Social Security Scams

  • Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries across the country report receiving calls from scam operators (frequently with foreign accents), who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security, or an insurance company.
  • These callers claim that new Medicare, Social Security, or supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the beneficiary’s file must be updated. The scam artist asks the consumer to verify or provide their personal banking information, which the scammer then uses to commit ID theft.
  • The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to ask you to disclose personal or financial information.

To combat tax fraud, consumers need to file early, take advantage of the PIN if they have been a victim of fraud, use long and strong passwords, enable two factor authentication, use legitimate tax preparers, store important tax docs on an encrypted thumb drive and never give out personal or financial info to someone who contacts you, even if the caller ID looks legit.

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Ep. 042 - The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History with Diana Henriques

Ask some Wall Street veterans where they were on October 19, 1987 and they will likely regale you with details of any crisis. My life changed that day in ways that often creep up on me. Indeed, Black Monday was the single worst day in Wall Street history, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging by more than 22 percent in one session--that’s the equivalent of the blue chip index diving by more than 5,000 points today.

It was a “First Class Catastrophe”, according to our first class guest and storyteller supreme, Diana Henriques, who dropped by the studio to help us retrace the events that led up to that day.

Diana joined us on the podcast earlier this year when her book, The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, was made into an HBO movie. This time around Diana is joining us to discuss her latest book, A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History. As Diana recounts, Black Monday was more than seven years in the making and threatened nearly every U.S. financial institution.

There were missed opportunities, market delusions, and destructive actions that stretched from the “silver crisis” of 1980 to turf battles in Washington and a rivalry between the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Here’s the crazy thing...you’d think that after Black Monday, lessons would be learned. But in her analysis, Henriques demonstrates how that Monday in the fall of 1987 was the predicate to the financial crisis of 2008. Sadly, investors, regulators, and bankers failed to heed the lessons of 1987, even as the same patterns resurfaced.

This was a fascinating interview for me because I lived through this period. I had just started my career on Wall Street, as the chaos was unfolding. I watched firsthand as my father nearly lost his business. This chat was like going down memory lane and it’ll give you guys a good glimpse of the life I used to live before I started hosting podcasts and radio shows!

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Ep. 041 - The Equifax Data Breach with Credit Expert John Ulzheimer

How many of you were impacted by the recent Equifax data breach? I was, Mark was, and considering 145.5 million other Americans were impacted, I’m going to guess that includes many of you too.

Now that the news is out, heads have rolled (CEO Richard Smith has stepped down), Congressional hearings have taken place, where do things stand? More importantly, what should you do? Who should you trust?

In times like these, there’s one go-to person: John Ulzheimer, the foremost authority on anything involving credit scores, credit reports, breaches, etc. John is so good that we did this interview on the phone!

Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has served as a credit expert witness in more than 270 cases and has been qualified to testify in both Federal and State court on the topic of consumer credit.

We’re going to get into all the dos and don’ts with John, but so you also have the vitals to reference, here are the main takeaways:

  • Contact one (under Federal law, each is obligated to notify the other two) of the three credit bureaus Equifax (800-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289) to put a free fraud alert on your credit report. You should also contact a fourth, lesser known company Innovis. The alert makes it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name, but experts note that alerts usually just slow down the process of criminals opening accounts in your name, they don’t prevent it.
  • If someone has used your information to make purchases or open accounts, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report.
  • Place a credit-freeze on your credit file, which generally stops all access to your credit report. Unfortunately, you need to contact all the companies to freeze your file. Here are the links: Equifax; Experian; TransUnion and Innovis. Important note about a freeze: If you need to access credit, you have to unfreeze your records, which can take a few days. Some states charge a fee for placing or removing a credit freeze, but it’s free to place or remove a fraud alert.

I’m not trying to freak you out or make you even more paranoid, but the reality of the situation is not if your information will be compromised, but when.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 040 - The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education

So often on this podcast, and on my radio show, we field questions from recent grads with insane amounts of student loan debt. Sometimes it’s enough debt to wreck a life.

There’s enough blame to go around, but so often it’s a case of students feeling the pressure to go to fancy, high priced colleges to study what seems like an obscure major. But before you think that I am about to argue that every able-bodied student should be studying for a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field, read on...

Let me pose a question. What is wrong with a well-rounded liberal arts degree? A degree, which I might add, can be earned at countless reasonably priced colleges.

George Anders, our guest this week on Better Off makes a strong case in his recently released book, You Can Do Anything: The Surprising Power of a "Useless" Liberal Arts Education.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or know how to write computer code to succeed in today’s work environment.

When you really think about it, it’s amazing how many doors a so called “useless” liberal arts education can open.

As George says, you can be yourself, as an English major, and thrive in sales. You can segue from anthropology into the booming new field of user research; from classics into management consulting, and from philosophy into high-stakes investing. At any stage of your career, you can bring a humanist’s grace to the rapidly evolving high-tech future.

If you’ve got kids starting the college application process, who are resisting calls to declare a STEM major or if you’re thinking about furthering your education by going to grad school, listen to this episode before making any decisions.

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Ep. 039 - Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy with Tim Harford

How many of you rode an elevator today? Or Googled something? Or use index funds in your financial lives?

I’m going to guess all of you did at least one of those things. I’m also going to guess that you probably didn’t realize that those three things are among the 50 inventions that shaped the modern economy.

That’s according to the list compiled by BBC and Financial Times journalist Tim Harford, our guest this week on Better Off and author of the new book, Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.

The book paints a picture of change by telling fascinating and compelling stories of the tools, people, and ideas that had far-reaching consequences for the global economy. From the plough to air conditioning, from Gillette’s disposable razor to IKEA’s Billy bookcase, Tim is able to recount each invention’s own curious, surprising, and memorable journey.

We also touched on Tim’s previous book, Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, which comes out in paperback this October. As someone who could be described as a bit compulsive, especially when it comes to my email inbox, I loved this book because it celebrates the benefits of messiness in our lives: why it’s important, why we resist it, and why we should embrace it.

Little did I know that a bit of mess lies at the core of how we innovate, how we achieve, how we reach each other – in short, how we succeed.

I enjoyed this interview so much that, yep, you guessed it, no call this week! I don’t think you’ll mind...this was a fun one.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.

Ep. 038 - How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street with Rana Foroohar

As you’ll recall, we did our fair share of explaining why Wall Street matters, on the episode featuring Bill Cohan.

Today we’re doing a 180 with financial journalist and author Rana Foroohar. Rana’s book, Maker and Takers: How Wall Street Destroyed Main Street, doesn’t exactly paint our economic system in the best light.

The book, just released in paperback, explores how the misguided financial practices and philosophies that nearly toppled the global financial system have infiltrated many US businesses.

Rana shows how the “financialization of America,” the trend by which finance and its way of thinking have come to reign supreme, is perpetuating Wall Street’s reign over Main Street, widening the gap between rich and poor, and threatening the future of the American Dream.

And since it’s not everyday that we have a Financial Times columnist in the studio, we also talked a good bit about the global economy, including Germany, Brexit, and China.

Rana is a great storyteller, and it’s through stories of both “Takers,” those stifling job creation while lining their own pockets, and “Makers,” businesses serving the real economy, that she shows how we can reverse these trends for a better path forward.

“Better Off” is sponsored by Betterment.

Have a finance related question? Email us here or call 855-411-JILL.

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"Better Off" theme music is by Joel Goodman, www.joelgoodman.com.