• How can I be sure a charity is worthy of my generosity?

    My mom has been a charitable person all her life. But since dad died 18 months ago, she seems to be donating to every cause. It’s always some new charity she chats about whenever we get together. Is she being ripped off? Are these places really charities? How do I get her to be more thoughtful about the organizations to which she donates?

    Unfortunately, charity scams are an increasing problem in today’s society. Many fictitious charities are able to view who you have donated to in the past and tailor their requests based on your past giving. Further, once a scam artist has found a potential victim, they may try to go back to the same person on more than one occasion pretending to be different charities.

    If you or your mother have concerns regarding the validity of a charity who has contacted you, tell them you will call them back and take some time to research the charity.

    Here are some precautions and steps to take when thinking about donating to a particular cause:

    Contributor: Kerry Peck

  • What should I do if I feel I am being scammed on the phone?

    A young woman called me by phone the other day, asking if I had enjoyed using the ADT security system connected to my house over the past three years. I told her I didn’t use ADT. She asked if I was sure. I said, “Of course, I’m sure. I don’t use a security system.” She thanked me and hung up. When I told my son later about my conversation, he said that I should have said nothing. Is he right?

    Your son might be correct. The caller might have been fishing for information regarding the security features of your home. From a short exchange, the caller now knows that you did not have a security system at the time they called you. (more…)

  • What should I do if I feel as though a contractor is ripping me off?

    A roofing contractor came to my house, told me that my roof was more than 15 years old and that I needed a new one. So, I paid him $8,000 to start the project, and $8,000 on completion. He and his guys started way back in June, and now it’s almost November. Half my roof is done, but the other half has no shingles or covering whatsoever. How do I get him to finish the job?

    Consumers are often disappointed in the services a contractor provides or are ripped off by the individual or company they trusted to improve their home. It appears from your question that the roofing contractor came to you and solicited you for this project. We would stress that you should be weary of service providers who show up to your home uninvited and attempt to solicit your business. This is a tactic that is often used to make the homeowner feel pressured, via a face to face encounter, which causes them to agree to the services they are being offering. (more…)

  • Can online salespeople ask for my Social Security number?

    On several occasions, I’ve been asked by an online salesperson to provide my social security number as proof of identification. Is this a legitimate request?

    Thank you very much for your question. Your social security number is a key piece of information that a thief may want to steal and one of the most difficult pieces of identification to untangle. Your Social Security number, along with basic personal information that might be attainable online, may allow individuals to access credit on your behalf. A common result of this type of theft is that a new credit card is opened and used in the individual’s name. Victims of this identity crime often do not find out until they receive a new credit card bill.

    DO NOT provide your Social Security number to anyone you did not directly contact. If you did not personally contact the company or individual seeking to establish or create a new account, it is unlikely that your Social Security number would be needed on the phone. For example, if you applied for a new credit card, bank account, or mortgage, your Social Security might be relevant. However, the vast majority of these applications would be in writing or would have taken place in person. Further, your bank, credit card company, and mortgage company already have your Social Security number on file. Therefore, they may ask you to confirm its last four digits, but should not need you to provide it to them again orally on the telephone.

    Additionally, most companies do not need your Social Security number as proof of identification. If a business needs to verify your identity, ask them what other data would be helpful to ensure confidence about your identify without giving your Social Security number.

    Finally, if you have any doubts, do not provide the information to the caller. Confirm with the caller who they claim to work for then hang up the phone and contact that company directly.

    Contributor: Kerry Peck

  • Should I include care for my dogs in my trust just in case I pass before they do?

    I have three beloved border collies (ages two to five) and I’ve been recently diagnosed with 3rd-stage lung cancer. Should I include care for my dogs in my trust just in case I pass before they do? I ask because my sister in Scottsdale told me that if I did nothing, the dogs would be euthanized a few weeks after my death.

    That is a lovely consideration for your furry family members. Illinois does allow a trust for domestic or pet animals. It’s covered under the Pet Trust Act (760 ILCS 5/15.2). (more…)

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