Over the past while, I purchased some music from the Apple iTunes Store, as have millions of other people around the world.
As you likely know, Apple sends you an email with your purchase receipt and confirmation. This is nice a reminder of what you purchased and the amount that will show up on your credit card.
However, this good practice has also provided a great opportunity for Internet swindlers. One of the most popular scams this summer appears to be fake iTunes Store receipts, encouraging people to click on a link to correct the mistakes they have purposely put in the email.
Since many people are used to getting these receipts, nothing looks out of the ordinary, except it is a purchase that was not actually made. When I received a receipt telling me I had paid $35 for the audiobook The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, my immediate impulse was to click on the link to report the error.
Luckily, I thought twice about it, as did my wife when she received a similar fake receipt. You see, clicking that link would likely open up your computer to access from the scammers.
The other insidious and dangerous scam I've seen lately is someone calling to say they understand your computer is running slowly and needs service. Naturally, everyone's computer runs slower than they want, as applications and data get added to the system.
The offer to have someone fix it right now while you are on the phone is compelling. Therefore, some people give them full access to their computer, which the scammers use to gather passwords and even online banking information.
These days, it pays to be as careful and skeptical as you can possibly be. That will help you avoid falling prey to even the cleverest scammers, whether they approach you online, on the telephone or at your front door.
ñ ñ ñ
THERE is a new tool available online to help you get started on your financial planning. It's a newsletter called Here's the PlanTM, published by the Financial Planning Standards Council. This is the group that licenses the Certified Financial Planners (CFP) in Canada.
This mini-website does a great job of explaining the steps of financial planning and how to get started on your own plan. It also helps you find a qualified planner, gives tips on how to choose the one that's best for you, provides questions to ask a planner before you engage one, and helps you be more prepared for the "rules of engagement" when you seek planning advice.
There is also a link where you can file a complaint against a CFP professional. (This won't help you with issues with other investment advisors who are not Certified Financial Planners.)
The newsletter can be found at this link:
http://ow.ly/yorfy and free subscriptions are available, for regular delivery.
Moving on to selecting and monitoring investment advisers and managers, there was a great recent article written by Tom Bradley, CEO of Steadyhand Funds, and published in the Globe and Mail. It's called Want to be a Better Investor? Think of Yourself as the CEO.
Bradley is one of the most insightful, common sense people in the investment industry (and, naturally, a native Winnipegger). This article reminds all investors to take charge of the people hired to assist in the management of investments. This means communicating clearly, asking tough questions and generally taking responsibility for your own success.
We always tell clients they are the owner of the business and the chairman of the board. We are the general manager they have hired. We are held accountable for certain results. We handle all the day-to-day management of the company, hiring and firing staff and implementing the tactics needed to reach the stated goals.
The point we always try to make is the clearer clients can make our job description and their expectations, the better job we can do for them. A clear job description and a clear statement of goals and constraints puts us on the same page about how performance and success will be measured and evaluated.
After all, you're paying for services and advice. You might as well get the best value possible for your dollar.
Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice. Please consult legal, tax and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.
David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is a financial planner and adviser with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a vice-president with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.