Friday, September 29, 2017

How to keep your online accounts safe (from Fidelity Investments)

How to keep your online accounts safe:

·         Understanding the many forms of cybercrime may allow you to better defend yourself.
·         Use two-factor authentication for all online financial accounts.
·         Maintain updated industry-standard operating systems and software.
·         Do not use public Wi-Fi for your finances or other sensitive items.

You've likely spent a good deal of time thinking about investment risk. But have you stopped to think about more personal security issues, such as the safety of your online financial transactions and information stored on your computers? 

While most people recognize that online fraud or cyber crime is a potential threat, few know how or why they may be at risk. Cyber crime can take many forms, and understanding who the enemies are and how they commit crimes may allow you to better defend yourself.

Economic cyber criminals pose the greatest online risk to your family's personal financial data and assets. Make no mistake, many of these thieves are highly skilled and sophisticated. They may be individuals or coordinated groups that use technology to steal. For most of us, cyber crime can best be described as an extension of traditional criminal activity focused on personal financial data and monetary theft.

How do cybercriminals operate? Indiscriminate targeting:

In some cases, cybercriminals cast a wide net with "phishing" scams, among others, and hope the sheer quantity of potential victims will yield sufficient economic benefit.

Specific victim targeting:

A growing and more concerning trend is the specific targeting of high-net-worth individuals. In many of these cases, criminals spend a great deal of time and effort identifying a worthwhile target and then developing a victim profile based on public and private information—such as property records, credit information obtained via hacking, and posted details on social networks—with the goal of stealing assets from financial accounts.

Although the actual criminal act can take several forms, the basic steps are often similar. Below is a relatively common scenario:

·         Step 1: The thief sends an email with a link or attachment to the victim that appears to come from a known party. The targeted victim then clicks the link or attachment, which includes malicious software (malware) that infects the victim's computer.
·         Step 2: The thief uses installed malware to steal login credentials to the victim's financial accounts. This will generally allow the thief to log in as the victim.
·         Step 3: With access to accounts, the thief changes the victim's profile at the financial institution and/or impersonates the victim and moves money to criminal accounts at a different institution.

That's the bad news. The good news is that with some simple steps, you can improve your defenses and reduce your vulnerability to this type of crime.

Steps you can take to help keep your online accounts safe:

1. Use two-factor authentication and strong passwords. Treat your computing devices as you would your front door—restrict access and use tough security measures. Passwords are the keys to your online financial information. If cyber criminals find them, they can unlock the doors to your bank accounts, investment accounts, and personal information. Unfortunately, a significant amount of malicious software trolls the Internet looking specifically for account IDs and passwords. With an inadvertent click on what appears to be a legitimate link or the opening of an attachment designed to look legitimate, software can be loaded on your machine and be ready to take your "keys."

Go for two:

Adding an additional layer of security when you access your accounts, called two-factor authentication, is a strong defense against this type of attack. Fidelity and many other financial firms now offer two-factor authentication. It requires you to enter a unique security code, randomly generated and sent to your phone or other mobile device, in addition to your standard login. While not completely foolproof, two-factor authentication raises the bar for cyber attackers trying to access your accounts. You might also consider it for nonfinancial sites—Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter all offer two-step authentication options.

Go long and stay strong:

You've probably heard this before, but it bears repeating: Never use names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, or any personally identifiable letters or numbers as your password. Use a different password for every application and change them often. What constitutes a good password? The most important factor is length (at least 12 to 14 characters is best), but complexity also makes passwords more unique. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters and stay away from dictionary words or common combinations of words. It's also best to avoid common substitutions within words, like replacing the letter "o" with a zero. It's just too obvious. A string of uncorrelated words with numbers and special characters is best. Importantly, when selecting a password, don't rely on free password strength checkers—they often miss the mark.

Install a password manager:

These days, most of us have dozens of passwords covering multiple devices and everything from social media to subscription services, e-commerce, banking, and Wi-Fi. Remembering all these passwords and changing them frequently just isn't sustainable. Fortunately, there's an app for that. Password manager apps generate and store all your passwords in a secure environment. They'll even auto-fill login information for stored sites. Many now sync your passwords across all your devices and automatically generate new ones on a regular schedule. The cost of state-of-the-art password managers is negligible—especially when compared with the convenience and security they provide.

2. Install industry-standard systems and software, keep them up to date, and perform regular backups. One of the smartest things you can do to keep your financial information safe is to use modern, industry-standard operating systems and keep them up to date. Credible vendors have teams of cybersecurity specialists dedicated to fixing vulnerabilities in their current systems, and they are always on the lookout for new ways cybercriminals can hack into their products to access users' computer files or install malicious software.

Updating your systems is easier than it used to be:

Today, most operating systems let you set your update preferences to automatically install patches as soon as they are available. That goes for software too, including anti-virus protection. Don't forget to update your mobile phones and tablets, and the apps installed on them. You can set update preferences to do this automatically, but many devices need to be plugged in to your computer for a complete upgrade. It's a good idea to connect your mobile devices to your computer at least once a week so these updates can be downloaded and installed properly.

You can never have too much backup:

Backing up your data is good system hygiene. It prevents your information from being lost forever and immunizes you from ransomware attacks. In this increasingly common scheme, criminals lure you into clicking an email link that downloads malware and blocks your access to the computer. The perpetrators can hold your hard drive hostage, demanding a hefty ransom to unblock it. If your system data is backed up elsewhere, it eliminates any leverage the scammers have, neutralizing their threats.

Backups are most effective when done in a continuous, real-time environment. Savvy users employ redundant methods—typically a USB-connected external storage device in tandem with an encrypted cloud-based service. External storage offers more immediate data retrieval, while cloud-based services can store much more data. Also, in the event of a flood or fire, both the computer and external storage device may be lost, but offsite backups to a cloud-based service would be safe.

Don't forget to include mobile devices in regular backups. This can be done via a cloud-based service, but a full backup may require connecting to a computer. By syncing up your photos and home movies to your computer, they will then be included in regularly scheduled backups, keeping them secure.

3. Use caution when linking to financial accounts or e-commerce sites through email. Cybercriminals are getting smarter about making their phishy emails look legitimate. These emails mimic those of financial institutions, complete with logos and convincing signature lines. Searching Google and social media sites makes it easy to personalize these emails with your name and subject lines like "Your recent transaction with us." All of this is designed to lower your guard so you'll be more apt to click a link to a fraudulent version of your provider's website. This allows the scammers to download malicious software onto your computer or gain access to your passwords and usernames.

The best offense is a good defense:

Use caution when linking to your financial institution via email. Instead, go directly to your provider's website by using a link you've saved in your "Favorites" menu. That way, you'll be sure you arrive at a legitimate website. Always look for the "https" prefix in the site's address. This indicates that the connection to the site is encrypted to protect your sensitive data from prying eyes.

4. Always access your accounts from a secure Wi-Fi location. Your home Wi-Fi network comes with built-in security, but it's not foolproof. Your network provider supplies you with a router ID and password, but these are default settings. Cybercriminals know the defaults for major network providers. If you're using these settings, your "secure" home Wi-Fi network may not be as secure as you think.

When setting up your home network, consider changing the default network ID and passwords. Consider installing an Intrusion Detection or Intrusion Prevention system, as well as an applications-based firewall, to further secure your network.

The Internet of things:

Home networks now connect computers and smartphones to thermostats, TVs, refrigerators, and residential security systems. Each device is a potential weak spot in your Wi-Fi network. As your home becomes more dependent on the Internet, so does your exposure to a network breach.

Beware of public Wi-Fi:

Everyone loves free Wi-Fi, but unsecured public wireless access points are easy to intercept, providing an opportunity for attackers to snoop on your online activity. A safer alternative is to use only secure Wi-Fi networks. If you use your laptop or mobile devices while traveling, purchase a subscription to a paid hotspot provider in which the networks are password protected and have additional levels of security.

5. Consider using a dedicated device for online banking. One of the best ways to secure your online financial information is to dedicate one device exclusively for banking and financial use. Many cyberattacks come from malware installed while you're web surfing and reading emails. Eliminating those activities from a dedicated banking computer goes a long way toward keeping your financial information out of harm's way.

Help us help you:

A dedicated banking device also helps financial institutions keep your accounts secure. Most, including Fidelity, monitor client accounts for fraudulent logins from unauthorized computers and will alert you if there is suspicious activity in your account. When Fidelity surveyed client login patterns, we found many users logging in from multiple devices. One or two were common, but some clients routinely logged in from a seemingly random assortment of systems, making it difficult for an institution to distinguish a legitimate login from a fraudulent one. By using one device for all transactions, an illegitimate login stands out, and the institution will be able to move quickly to alert you and secure your account.

6. Understand your computing environment and consider whether you need help. If you have a complex computing environment, a comprehensive cyber-risk assessment may be an appropriate step in protecting your personal information. Individuals with complicated online footprints may consider contracting with a professional to implement and administer the recommended systems (e.g., intrusion prevention and detection, firewalls).

Because cyber threats evolve almost as fast as technology itself, consider retaining the firm to provide ongoing system surveillance, support, and maintenance. These services include everything from monitoring your home Internet traffic and blocking outside threats, to educating family members about smart social media practices, safe web surfing and e-commerce protocols.

A good risk assessment will be specific to each person and should consider questions like:

·         How many computers, mobile devices, tablets, TVs, home security systems, and appliances are connected to your home Wi-Fi network?
·         Are they shared across personal and home office use?
·         Do non-family members regularly in your home have access to your Wi-Fi network or computing devices?
·         What backup procedures are in place for each device?
·         Are you or other household members active on social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest?


No one wants to spend time thinking about all the bad things that can happen, but it's important to understand potential threats to your assets and take measures to eliminate them. When it comes to protecting your financial accounts from cyber threats, practicing good system hygiene and making a few changes in your user habits will significantly improve your online security. Clients can play a key role in helping Fidelity detect fraud. They can help us help them by maintaining a general awareness of their accounts, including staying alert to emails regarding password resets and account changes, and periodically logging in and checking for unusual transactions and activity.

Fidelity uses sophisticated security measures to protect our customers. We also make many additional security tools available for customers to utilize, including two-factor authentication and transaction alerts. Of course, we also provide a Customer Protection Guarantee for fraudulent activity. Make sure to visit Fidelity's online customer security site to explore some of these features, and learn more about what Fidelity is doing to help keep your assets safe.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Defined-Benefit Pension Plans and Teacher Retention from the National Institute on Retirement Security

“Pensions Improve Quality of U.S. Public Education System and Reduce Teacher Turnover. Magnetic Effect of Pensions Helped Retain 32,000 Teachers, Saved Up to $284 Million Nationally in Turnover Costs.

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 25, 2017 - A new research brief analyzing the effectiveness of defined benefit (DB) pensions on teacher retention and productivity finds that pensions play a critical role in recruiting and retaining highly productive teachers. As a result, pensions help increase schools' effectiveness, which benefits students. Additionally, DB pensions save school districts money by reducing expensive teacher turnover costs.

“These findings are contained in a new research brief from the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS), Revisiting the Three Rs of Teacher Retirement Systems: Recruitment, Retention and Retirement.
  • Download the research here.
  • Read a summary PowerPoint here.
“‘The reality we face is that the nation's schools continue to struggle with a growing shortage of teachers, and that teachers are paid on average as much as 60 percent less than similarly educated professionals across the globe,’ says Diane Oakley, NIRS executive director. ‘Pensions play an essential role in recruiting and retaining our best and most experienced teachers. It's critical that states continue to leverage the magnetic effect of pensions to help students achieve at their highest potential.’

“Recent NIRS research finds that public employees prefer pensions over 401(k)-type plans and that Americans strongly support teacher pensions to help address recruiting problems and the deep wage gap.

“The new research brief finds that:
  • Teacher effectiveness increases with experience. Thus, the more retention that we see among midcareer teachers, the more that the average productivity within a school will increase.
  • The cost of teacher turnover is quite high, both in terms of financial cost and loss of productivity to the school district.
  • Defined benefit pension plans help to recruit high quality teachers, and to retain highly productive teachers longer, as compared with defined contribution (DC) accounts.
  • In 2009, DB pensions helped to retain an additional 30,000 teachers nationwide. Because longer tenured teachers are more effective teachers, the increased retention that DB pensions bring increases the overall quality of public education.
  • Because the cost of teacher turnover is substantial, the retention effects of DB pension plans also save school districts money. In 2009, DB pensions saved school districts between $131 million and $284 million nationally in teacher turnover costs.

The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers and the economy as a whole. Located in Washington, D.C., NIRS' diverse membership includes financial services firms, employee benefit plans, trade associations, and other retirement service providers. More information is available at Follow NIRS on Twitter @nirsonline. Contact: Kelly Kenneally | | 202.457.8190.”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Down on One Knee

Section 1. Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly

Congress [or Donald Trump] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

According to Executive Director at Uptown People's Law Center, Alan Mills: “Trump calling for NFL players to be fired not only violates the First Amendment but violates Federal Statute 18 U.S. Code 227: ‘Wrongfully influencing a private entity's employment decisions by a member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch.’”

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Good-Bye Princess of Madiganistan

It was not too long ago Lisa Madigan declared a financial emergency and attacked the state’s public employees and retirees. Madigan and other self-interested politicians insisted on cutting pensions as their solution for the state’s budget problems, instead of considering more comprehensive, legal and ethical strategies for addressing the state’s antiquated revenue system and unfunded liabilities the Illinois General Assembly had created.

Of course, there was never a threat to the “public’s safety, health, and morals as well as peace, well-being and order of the state”; nor was the State of Illinois dealing with an economic emergency of such magnitude that the state’s politicians were compelled to invoke such powers “to protect the state's citizens and serve a reasonable public purpose or need.” 

What Madigan and the Illinois General Assembly attempted to do, nevertheless, was violate the state’s pension and contract clauses, due process and equal protection rights, the right of eminent domain, and also provisions in the U.S. Constitution, such as the taking of property without due process of law and equal protection, and ex post facto law.

What Madigan and the Illinois General Assembly learned on May 8, 2015 was what many of us knew: the state's chronic underfunding of its public pension systems for decades cannot warrant the impairment or diminishment of public employees' pension benefits and rights, and Madigan and the Illinois General Assembly could not diminish a constitutionally-protected pension because the “Pension Protection Clause protects pension benefit rights in all pension plans as enforceable contractual rights when a public employee becomes a member of a pension system, and it bars the legislature from later unilaterally reducing those rights.” 

The Reasons Not to be Afraid that the Public Pensions Systems Will Default in Illinois

A Continuation of Yesterday's Post Regarding Illinois Representative Scott Drury’s "Fear-Based" Pension Buyout Plan and Ignorance of the Rule of Law:

“…The [Pension Protection] Clause [Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution] stands as a constitutional guarantee that pension recipients will receive their pension payments when due even if a pension fund [such as the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois] defaults or is on the verge of default.

“Any state pension participant placed in such a position would have a cause of action in circuit court to enforce this guarantee and obtain payment directly from the State’s General Fund. A participant need not pursue payment before the Illinois Court of Claims and depend upon the largesse of the General Assembly…

“Obligations of State: the payment of the required department contributions, all allowances, annuities, benefits granted under this Article, and all expenses of administration of the system are obligations of the State of Illinois to the extent specified in this Article’ (40 ILCS 5/14-132). The Clause makes the State a Guarantor based on its plain meaning, convention history, Illinois court decisions, and common law understanding of pension payments as creating a debtor relationship…

“The Pension Code sufficiently manifests intent to make pension payments the obligations of the State when due… [T]he Illinois Pension Code Article of each of the five state-funded pension systems contains a provision with sufficient language binding the State to pay pensions even if a system defaults.

“Each provision states in pertinent part that ‘[t]he payment of the required department contributions, all allowances, annuities, benefits granted under this Article, and all expenses of administration of the system are obligations of the State of Illinois to the extent specified…’ (40 ILCS 5/2-125; 40 ILCS 5/14-170; 40 ILCS 5/15-156; 40 ILCS 5/16-158; 40 ILCS 18-132).

“A pension recipient would most likely obtain relief in circuit court through a mandamus action against the State Comptroller… [This writ is used when all other judicial remedies have failed or are inadequate]…  

“Again, while the Illinois Supreme Court has held that the Pension Clause does not provide pension participants with a constitutional right to a specific funding percentage (See supra notes 295, 311, 328 and accompanying text. People ex rel. Illinois Federation of Teachers v. Lindberg, 60 Ill. 2d 266, 272, 326 N.E.2d 749, 752 (1975)), it undoubtedly guarantees them the right to receive the money due them at the time of retirement (Lindberg, 60 Ill. 2d. at 271, 326 N.E.2d at 751-52 (stating that the Clause provides the contractual right to ‘receive money due them at the time of their retirement’); McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433, 446, 672 N.E.2d 1159, 1166 (1996). (‘[The Pension Protection Clause] creates an enforceable contractual relationship that protects only the right to receive benefits); People ex rel. Sklodowski v. State, 182 Ill. 2d 220, 230-31, 695 N.E.2d 374, 378-79 (1998) (same)).

“In addition, the Supreme Court has recognized… that if a pension fund were ‘on the verge of bankruptcy or imminent bankruptcy’ and ‘benefits [were] in immediate danger of being diminished,’ then pension participants would have a cause of action in circuit court to enforce their right to receive payments (McNamee, 173 Ill. 2d at 446-47, 62 N.E.2d at 1166; Sklodowski, 182 Ill. 2d at 233, 695 N.E.2d at 379.).  

Since the Clause acts as a restriction on legislative power, it is enforceable by the courts. (Client Follow-Up Co. v. Hynes, 75 Ill. 2d 208, 390 N.E.2d 847 (1979) (‘Limitations written into the Constitution are restrictions on legislative power and are enforceable by courts.’). See also People ex rel. Hilger v. Myers, 114 Ill. App. 2d 478, 252 N.E.2d 924 (1st Dist. 1969)...

“This conclusion comports with the drafters’ original intent, (See IV Proceedings 2926 (statements of principal sponsor, Delegate Kinney) (defining the word ‘enforceable’ as ‘meant to provide that the rights established shall be subject to judicial proceedings and can be enforced through court action’; and defining the word ‘impaired’ as ‘meant to imply and to intend that if a pension fund would be on the verge of default or imminent bankruptcy, a group action could be taken to show that these rights should be preserved’); id. (Statements of cosponsor, Delegate Kemp) (stating he understood the Clause as making ‘certain that irrespective of the financial condition of a municipality or even the state government that those persons who have worked for often substandard wages over a long period of time could at least expect to live in some kind of dignity during their golden years’) (emphasis added) and the voters’ understanding that pension recipients would receive their full benefits… (See supra notes 196-202 and accompanying text (discussing the Convention’s official explanation and newspaper articles).

“In sum, if the Illinois Supreme Court were confronted with a circumstance where a pension fund was on the verge of default and pension payments were diminished, then the court would most likely permit a mandamus action to proceed and resolve that action in the same manner as Jorgenson v. Blagojevich [2004] (211 Ill. 2d 286, 811 N.E.2d 652 (2004). See People ex rel. Sklodowski v. Illinois Retired Teachers Association, 284 Ill. App. 3d 809, 817-18, 674 N.E.2d 81, 86-87 (1st Dist. 1996)…

“In that case, the court held that where a constitutional or statutory provision ‘categorically commands the performance of an act, so much money as is necessary to obey the command may be disbursed without any explicit appropriation.’ (211 Ill. 2d at 314, 811 N.E.2d at 668-69 (quoting Antle v. Tuchbreiter, 414 Ill. 571, 581, 111 N.E.2d 836 (1953)). The court applied this principal to compel the State Comptroller to pay judges from the State Treasury, without an appropriation, the cost of living increase that was part of their constitutionally-protected salaries under Article VI, Section 14 of the Illinois Constitution (Id.).

“As noted, that provision bars the diminishment of judicial salaries just as the Clause prohibits the diminishment of pension benefit rights. Accordingly, the Supreme Court would most likely grant pension participants the same relief provided in Jorgenson by compelling the Comptroller to pay the needed funds from the State General Revenue Fund, especially since the State Pension Funds Continuing Appropriation Act requires automatic appropriations be made from the Fund to the five State pension systems. (40 ILCS 15/1 (2008); 40 ILCS 15/1.1 (2008); 40 ILCS 15/1.2 (2008).)…” (IS WELCHING ON PUBLIC PENSION PROMISES AN OPTION FOR ILLINOIS?
AN ANALYSIS OF ARTICLE XIII, SECTION 5 OF THE ILLINOIS CONSTITUTION by Eric M. Madiar, former Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, (pages 65-70). (What happens if the Illinois public pension funds are “on the verge of bankruptcy?” 


“Pensions will not run out of money… [That] assumes that at a future date, state pensions will just cease and all outstanding financial obligations will come due… Unlike a corporation, a state government cannot go out of business… [Accordingly,] state law empowers TRS (40 ILCS 5/16-158c)… Payment of the required state contributions and of all pensions, retirement annuities, death benefits…, all other benefits…, and all expenses are obligations of the state… The state has waved its sovereign immunity in regard to the teachers’ pension because TRS is a qualified pension plan under the tax-deferred provisions of the IRS code.  Federal law would protect all claims… [Furthermore], pensions [are not] the problem [or] why Illinois has been unable to pay its bills.  The reason is the dramatic fall-off in state revenues over the years, costing the state billions” (Dave Urbanek, Public Information Officer at TRS, 2011) (What We Believe We Know about the SUSTAINABILITY of the TRS PENSION).

Why Is a Pension Buyout a Terrible Choice to Make in Illinois (from Yesterday's Post): Because It Is an Unnecessary Reduction to Your Defined Benefit Pension Plan.

Friday, September 15, 2017

“Any buyout whether it be full or partial, at retirement or before, rolled over into an IRA or used to purchase an annuity is a reduction in the guaranteed benefit that the member may have earned up to the point of the buyout”—TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram

“State Rep Scott Drury's pension plan is to offer current retirees a buy-out for 70 cents on the dollar. He says he would expect 25 to 30% of current retired teachers would take the deal. I said why would someone take a deal that would give them less money unless they were afraid that the system would go under? He agreed. I told him that to come up with a policy based on fear that takes money from the elderly and retirees to save the state money was immoral. And that he was immoral. Or maybe I said amoral. He shook my hand and told me that we agreed to disagree. I hate it when someone says that to me”—Fred Klonsky.

TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram told legislators in March 2016 that a “buyout” is a benefit cut that would “do little or nothing” to improve the financial health of TRS: 

“…[I]t must be stated that any buyout – whether it be full or partial, at retirement or before, rolled over into an IRA or used to purchase an annuity – is a reduction in the guaranteed benefit that the member may have earned up to the point of the buyout. You won’t see any significant relief for the unfunded burden we already have created. In fact, the buyouts may actually serve to accelerate the state’s pension obligations…


“While the proposals may have a certain appeal to some, and potentially positive perceived benefits, we should study carefully as to whether we might expect any significant benefit from them. [One] can see few instances where prudent financial considerations would lead a member to take a reduction in a benefit that has been guaranteed by the Illinois Constitution and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. Such instances would be rare and likely due to unusual personal circumstances. They will likely often reflect what is termed adverse selection. 

“An example would be a member who has a terminal illness and who can determine that the lump sum will provide a bigger payout than the monthly benefit. Further, accepting a buyout would place the members' assets subject to the well documented reality that individuals personally managing their retirement money in an IRA or defined contribution account do so with lower average annual investment returns and higher costs than when their assets are managed professionally in a pooled defined benefit plan that shares risks and rewards.

“Some have pointed out that an individual account can be willed to your heirs when you die. That is true but when that happens it means you have... died early… Note that the survivor benefit available to a member of TRS allows them to provide for their beneficiary after they die. While not exactly analogous to the passing on of an asset like the remaining balance of an IRA, it is a significant value when a member is planning for the financial security of their loved ones after they die.

“Others have stated that having control over their assets after a buyout would provide a member some financial flexibility. True again, but this is flexibility that many if not most of our members would likely not need. It would also subject the funds to the risk of being diverted to some non-retirement use. Their TRS benefit is the core element of their retirement security. They are teachers who have planned their retirement relying on a defined benefit that is designed to replace roughly 75 percent of their full-career, pre-retirement earnings. This is exactly what most financial planners suggest is prudent.

“While they may supplement their defined benefit with personal savings in some manner, they have not earned any Social Security benefits that provide a retirement safety net for most of their friends and neighbors. They need the security of a regular monthly check that their TRS defined benefit delivers…” 

Tomorrow's post will address this issue: Can the TRS system "go under?"

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Re: Equifax Breach

Place a Fraud Alert (from the Federal Trade Commission):

Ask 1 of the 3 credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report. They must tell the other 2 companies. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. The alert lasts 90 days but you can renew it.

Why Place an Initial Fraud Alert:

Three national credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history. If someone has misused your personal or financial information, call 1 of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free. You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other companies about your alert.

An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days. 
It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.
How to Place an Initial Fraud Alert:
1        Contact one credit reporting company

1.       Report that you are an identity theft victim.
2.      Ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit file.
3.      Confirm that the company you call will contact the other 2 companies.

Placing a fraud alert is free. The initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days.

Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.
2.     Update your files:

The credit reporting company will explain that you can get a free credit report, and other rights you have.

3.     Mark your calendar:

The initial fraud alert stays on your report for 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days.

4.     Update your files:
1.       Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
2.      Keep copies of letters in your files.


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