Incidents of fraud are on the rise and scammers’ tactics are becoming more complex, says Robert Hall, financial advisor for Edward Jones & Company.
The good news is that you have the power to beat the swindlers at their game. There’s truth to that expression, “Knowledge is power,” and Hall aims to arm the public with knowledge in his upcoming presentation, “Outsmart the Scammers.” The event takes place in Pennington at 100 Straube Center Boulevard, Suite 201, on Wednesday, April 6, from 10 to 11 a.m. To register for this free event, call 609-818-1682.
Hall will discuss common types of scams used today and the red flags to be aware of, steps you can take to protect yourself and loved ones, and resources available if you have been targeted. As with any presentation Hall gives, he encourages audience participation.
The following scam is one example from Hall’s presentation:
Scam type: Computer Intrusion. The target: Anyone who owns a computer or other electronic device connected to the Internet. The intrusion occurs when a scammer takes control of your computer because you have unwittingly given him or her access information.
A common scenario could go like this: Someone claiming to be with a software company or Internet provider calls you to say he or she has detected errors coming from your computer. The caller says he can fix the problem remotely if you follow a few simple steps. If you agree, he walks you through a few clicks on your keyboard and obtains your Internet Protocol (IP) address. With this information the caller takes control of your computer.
What’s at risk? Once the scammer gains access, any information stored on your computer could be compromised, and the con artist could install spyware or other malicious software. He could steal your user IDs and passwords and enter your accounts. Some scammers have even coerced people into paying up to $500 (via a credit card) for the alleged computer repair.
Red Flags. You receive an unexpected call from someone saying he or she has detected something wrong with your computer and he can fix the problem if you follow his instructions.
Tips to Protect Yourself. Never provide your IP address or give control of your computer to someone you don’t know. Remember that legitimate companies will never call the general public claiming that your computer has software issues. If you receive such a call, simply hang up the phone. Be sure you’re running current virus detection software on your computer.
Reporting a Computer Intrusion. Contact your financial institutions immediately to determine whether your accounts have been accessed and to learn how they can help you.
Additional steps. If you paid the scammer with a credit card, follow your card issuer’s procedures to dispute any unauthorized charges. Disconnect your computer from the Internet and contact a reputable company to have the hard drive professionally cleaned. Then change all of your passwords. If you change your passwords before having your computer cleaned, you may be unintentionally giving the scammer your new passwords.
Another way scammers access personal information is through public computers or unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Hall advises that you should not use these devices for viewing your financial or otherwise sensitive information. Nine million Americans are victims of identity theft each year, he says, quoting the Federal Trade Commission.
The Grandparent Scam is one that especially disheartens Hall because it preys on the emotions of older adults who want to help their grandchildren. The scammer will call the grandparent and claim to be their “favorite grandchild,” and then proceed with a story that he or she has been traveling and has gotten into a little trouble with authorities who are demanding that he pay a fine. The scammer then asks the grandparent to wire money immediately.
Other scams Hall will cover include collection fraud, which often uses scare tactics; the lottery/sweepstakes scam; and the long-distance relationship/romance scam that starts with social media, where the scammer builds false trust and proceeds to use personal E-mail and telephone communications.
Hall became interested in the financial world in college. “I thought finance was a good way I could help people,” he says. One of his favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill, “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” Hall learned the value of giving while growing up in downtown Jersey City along with the performers “Kool and the Gang.” He was influenced by his mother, who worked in education and health and was a guidance counselor in New York City. With tongue in cheek, he says his mother acquired her counseling experience from having him as a son.
But Hall was especially influenced by his grandmother, Mae Hall, who was active and admired in the neighborhood. She and his high school basketball coach instilled in him the importance of being respectful and giving a full day’s effort in his work. “These are some of the principles I follow today,” he says.
After high school he spent some time in New York City, studied at a college in New Jersey and at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Before joining Edward Jones & Company, he worked at PNC in Philadelphia and at Bank of New York, Mellon.
To date the accomplishment that stands out most for Hall is the “Black Achievers in Industry (BAI)” award he received in 2005 for his work at the Bank of New York Investment Center. “I built out the bank’s insurance platform from beginning to end (product, training schedule, payouts, and basic partnership agreements) and as a result, executive management nominated me. On the dais that year was Maurice DuBois from Channel 2 news. Shon Gables (former anchor) was the emcee. It truly was a special night in my professional career,” Hall says.
In addition to his advisory role at Edward Jones & Company, he is the board vice president of Pennington Business and Professional Association and a board officer of the Hopewell Harvest Fair.
When not working, Hall, a resident of Cream Ridge, likes to watch sports and spend time with his wife, Mona, a grants manager at Princeton University, and his daughter, Sydney, a senior at Villa Victoria and competitive figure skater.
Following the footsteps of his mother and grandmother, Hall is committed to making better lives for children and youth. He is working with a peer to build a forum through the Granville Academy to provide a financial foundation education for youth in grades six through twelve.
They are also planning to engage small not-for-profit organizations that help prepare youth as they move forward in life. “It is our plan to have our platform and alliances built out by year-end,” he says.
As a financial advisor, Hall opens his practice to people of all income levels. He is committed to working with everyone, especially those who do not have substantial amounts to invest and who would not otherwise have access to financial advice. He advises people to take a total view of their financial future, to speak to more than one advisor, and to decide what they want and how to get there. In addition to the “Outsmart the Scammers” meeting, he is hosting Coffee Club sessions at his office in May and June.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to give back to community by educating others,” Hall says.