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STORM TRACKING

1.16.20 Grandparent scam; Retirement account hacking; Homeowner’s insurance rates rising

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2020 @ 5:00 PM

A senior gets a call from someone pretending to be a relative in trouble asking for money. This scam preys on seniors desire to help loved ones, resulting in millions of dollars in losses to seniors every year. Should banks and other financial firms be doing more to protect seniors? Banks are required by law to put through a lawful transaction. Lazarus suggests bank tellers simply ask the person if they’re familiar with the grandparent scam as a brief intervention to hopefully prevent loss. In some states, tellers and bank officers are trained to spot scams and ask questions. This is a reasonable responsibility to expect from banks. Make sure your aging relatives are aware of this scam and verify with relatives. If the caller refuses to let them hang up to do so, that’s a scam red flag.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published an investigative report on how criminals are targeting retirement accounts. No federal law protects our retirement accounts from hacking but many of the providers do. Still, you can’t count of administrator protections since it’s not law. Monitor your retirement account at least in tandem with quarterly statements, and set up 2 factor authentication. Virtually every 401k provider offers this additional security step. Protect your life savings.

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Due to the increase in extreme weather and natural disasters, we’ll see homeowners insurance rate increases. Normally, home and auto insurers go through cycles where they’re either into market share or profit margin. But extreme weather is a third factor upending actuarial assumptions about what losses insurers will see. Insurers also depend on financial industry ratings of their strength. Thus they must maintain certain levels of financial strength, now tested by increasing claims from catastrophic weather. The greatest vulnerability is in coastal regions. Coastal residents will see a reduction in the quality of home insurance available as in less coverage and higher deductibles. Your mortgage may have limitations on the deductible you’re allowed to carry and that may force a change in who insures you. Otherwise your mortgage company will rip you off with ‘force placed insurance’ which cost from 10 to 100 times what regular insurance cost. This is a big profit center for banks. Different insurers are facing different pressures. If you’re hit with a notice of a large rate increase, take it as a signal to shop the market. Coastal dwellers may have a hard time finding robust coverage at an affordable price. Know that behind the scenes, home insurers are facing significant financial pressures. Due to the increased violence and frequency of storms the market must calculate higher risk levels. Be aware and prepared.
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