There Be Monsters

Jim Wasserman  |  Nov 23, 2022

I’VE BEEN AWAY FROM the HumbleDollar community for a while. Jiab and I are working on a new book about media literacy, examining the effects of social media influencers on youth consumerism. It will teach kids about responsible web use and how to avoid the traps of the online world.
I’ve learned a lot myself, including lessons that apply both online and IRL, short for “in real life.” As part of our research,

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Ripoff Royalty

Greg Spears  |  Oct 5, 2022

WHEN I WORKED FOR a personal finance magazine in the mid-1990s, I wrote a story about conmen who met their marks in internet chat rooms devoted to stock investing. One of the slickest tricksters went by the name of Josef von Habsburg. He told people he was descended from Austrian royalty.
In researching the story, I called the police in von Habsburg’s hometown of Birmingham, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The local police knew him as Josef Meyers and said he was about as royal as you or me.

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A Dark Place

Sonja Haggert  |  Sep 28, 2022

WHERE WOULD WE BE without the internet, social media, and our smartphones and smartwatches? Can you remember a time when you couldn’t look up the answer to a trivia question at a cocktail party? I love answering the phone on my watch. It takes me back to Dick Tracy.
There I was, going along happily in my online universe—until I got an email from McAfee’s identity theft protection service alerting me that my phone number had been found on the dark web.

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Bad Guy on Line One

Jim Wasserman  |  Aug 4, 2022

GOOD PARENTS WARN their children about predators who look to take advantage of them. By the same token, good adults should warn and safeguard their elderly parents, as well as the other seniors they care for.
We all use our electronics for accessing information. We sometimes forget the information highway is two-way, and nefarious people use those lines of communication to get to the vulnerable. And it isn’t just about hacking online accounts. Often,

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Checking on You

Sonja Haggert  |  Jul 6, 2022

WE’VE ALL HEARD of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, which compile our all-important credit reports. But have you heard of ChexSystems?
ChexSystems generates reports on bank customers, typically using banking history from the past five years to assess the risk that customers pose to their banks. Those risks are reflected in blemishes on a consumer’s banking history, such as overdrafts and unpaid fees. In some instances, ChexSystems warns banks about potential fraud.

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A Dirty Business

Jonathan Clements  |  Jun 18, 2022

ON MONDAY, MAY 2, I logged onto my Chase bank account—and discovered my balance was $992.43, many thousands of dollars less than I expected. My first thought: I’m going to get hit with a low-balance fee.
That, alas, should have been the least of my worries.
I clicked through to see the account details, and discovered that check No. 1126 had been made out to Milton Cherry for $7,000. But none of the writing on the check was mine,

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Wrote and Grew Rich

John Goodell  |  Apr 9, 2022

IF YOU GOOGLE “best business books of all time,” you’ll find Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich at or near the top of the search results, ahead of works by luminaries such as Ben Graham and Jack Bogle.
Truly helpful business analysis requires the reader to pay attention to evidence backed by boring data, a formula that’s hard to sell to the masses. Books like Think and Grow Rich or Jim Collins’s Good to Great offer the reader questionable assumptions built on anecdotal evidence,

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Low-Cost Protection

Paul Merriman  |  Mar 1, 2022

I’VE BEEN IN LOVE with index funds for a long time, especially for a reason that doesn’t get enough attention. Lots of financial writers correctly praise index funds for their low costs, low turnover, low drama, massive and easy diversification, and numerous other good attributes.
But the No. 1 reason you should love index funds is they will keep you out of the hands of pushy, unethical financial salespeople. If Wall Street knows you’re committed to index funds,

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On Guard Online

David Powell  |  Feb 27, 2022

IN AN ARTICLE last year, I wrote about the importance of strong online account security wherever you keep your savings and investments. I shared habits that should help you avoid the potentially huge financial losses caused by a cybercrime. I also urged readers to weigh a company’s commitment to security when choosing a home for their money.
I’d like to give kudos to Bank of America for providing a good example of this commitment.

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Be Suspicious

Paul Merriman  |  Feb 14, 2022

THIS IS NOT MY favorite topic. But it’s a necessary one these days—when a seemingly endless number of companies and individuals are intent on separating us from our money. Some of them will use any means, fair or foul.
I’m going to share a story about a longtime friend whose kindness and generous nature were used against him when he was vulnerable. As much as anyone I’ve ever known, my friend—I’ll call him Bill—was a gentle man and a gentleman.

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Brotherly Betrayal

Jiab Wasserman  |  Jan 10, 2022

I WROTE PREVIOUSLY about my parents being victims of financial abuse by one of my brothers. Recently, I returned to Bangkok, which gave me a chance to discuss this situation at length with the entire family, including my other brothers and my uncle.

When the financial abuse of an elderly person is committed by a stranger, the rest of the family often has no chance to see warning signs. But 90% of abusers are family members or trusted individuals.

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Trust Betrayed

Jiab Wasserman  |  Nov 16, 2021

BEFORE I RETIRED, I was a credit risk manager. I had to take compliance courses annually. One course focused on financial abuse, especially of the elderly. I learned that the most common perpetrators are not strangers, but family members, friends and caregivers who take advantage of too-trusting seniors.

But it’s one thing to know this theoretically—and quite another to find out it’s happening in your own family.

I previously wrote about now both my late father and his close friend were victims of financial abuse.

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Buckeye Burglar

Kyle McIntosh  |  Nov 8, 2021

“DEAR OHIOAN: According to our records, you have applied for and/or received pandemic unemployment benefits.” As I haven’t been to Ohio in more than 20 years, I knew something was amiss. It was highly likely I was the victim of identify fraud. After some investigation, I found out someone had been receiving unemployment benefits in my name since March 2021.
I’m hardly the only person victimized by this fraud. In a recent report, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber estimated that $3.8 billion in fraudulent unemployment payments and overpayments had been made since March 2020.

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Numbers Game

Kyle McIntosh  |  Oct 19, 2021

IT HAPPENED AGAIN. For the third time in two years, our credit card number was stolen. I learned this yesterday when I received the now-too-frequent question from Chase: “Do you recognize this gas station purchase for $1?” We live nowhere near the station in question, so I knew something was amiss.
I appreciate Chase’s diligence in identifying such transactions, and the fact that we won’t be held liable for any fraudulent charges. Still, I’ve grown weary of the whole process of cancelling credit cards,

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Copycat Crime

Howard Rohleder  |  Oct 14, 2021

I WAS SITTING AT MY computer one lunchtime when an email popped up from one of my credit card companies, saying I’d just purchased nearly $12,000 of jewelry at a store in Toronto. Within minutes, I was on the phone to the card company.
I was quickly referred to the fraud unit. I told my story. The company credited my account, cancelled the card and mailed me replacements. Weeks later, I had to complete a form,

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