online data

Gone Phishing

photo shows hands holding a cell phone showing "Unknown Caller"

The winter holidays are a busy season for everyone—including scam artists. One of the most common forms of fraud is known as “phishing.” Phishing attempts may happen as emails, texts, webpages, or automated phone calls that sound like they come from an official source.  

Identity thieves have been known to pose as businesses or government entities to trick consumers into sharing their information with someone they thought was an authority. Often identity thieves will claim there is some sort of problem and that you need to cooperate with them. (You can understand how someone might panic if they got a phone call suggesting they were in trouble with the IRS, right?)  

Another tactic may be telling you that you are entitled to money or other rewards, if you only give them what they need. 

The best way to protect yourself against identity theft is to stay calm and view the situation for what it is. Not sure whether you may be dealing with an imposter? Consider… 

How is the message arriving?  

  • Government agencies that have important matters to discuss with you will contact you via certified mail on official letterhead, not in a call or text. 
  • Expect official correspondence to sound professional and not contain obvious spelling or grammatical mistakes. 

What are they asking for?  

  • There is no reason for government authorities to ask you for your personal information such as Social Security number or date of birth. (They already have access to it: officials would be able to look it up themselves!) 
  • If someone is legitimately trying to give you money, they should not need money from you to facilitate the payment that is supposedly coming your way, nor would they need your Social Security number or other compromising personal details in order to send you money. 

Are they hurrying you? 

  • If you owe money to the government, officials will not try to get a credit card on the spot, and they will definitely not ask you to use PayPal or other online money transfer services.  
  • Remember that time is on your side. Very few legitimate issues are so urgent that you couldn’t hang up and take time to verify the situation.

Bundle up: add layers for protection. 

One way that we work to protect your accounts in case of identity theft is LPL’s Trusted Contact system. If we ever suspect that a request is fraudulent or that you are being manipulated, your trusted contact is someone we have permission to talk to about the situation to make sure that you are not being defrauded of your hard-earned money.  

Trusted contacts do not have authority to make changes on your accounts, but they can help verify that requests are actually coming from you and are on the level. It is up to you if you want to designate a trusted contact with us, but it is another layer of protection in case your identity is stolen. 

Clients, when you have questions about this or other topics please reach out. We’re here to help.

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Through a Dangerous Door

photo shows a rusty key in a rusty keyhole on a wooden door

Life in the 21st century is more connected and accessible than ever before. The Internet has brought whole new worlds of opportunity that would have been all but unimaginable before.

New opportunities have also created new pitfalls. Online stockbrokers have opened new doors for small-time traders, racing to cut commissions and expand access to trading instruments—even ever riskier ones.

Traditionally, trading features such as derivatives and margin trading were reserved for experienced investors who had money to lose. New online trading platforms have been pushing down the barriers to entry, allowing traders with just a few thousand dollars to their name to make heavily-leveraged speculative bets.

Our investment philosophy centers on traditional equity investing. We believe in owning pieces of real companies that have physical property and actual products. This provides no guarantees for us; equity investments are considered volatile, and they risk loss if a company disappears from the map.

Even so, these risks are small potatoes compared to what investors may get themselves into when they start playing around with complicated investment vehicles. Derivative investments can very easily be wiped out, and margin traders may find themselves owing more money than they put in to begin with. Traders beware!

At some point, it seems frankly irresponsible to turn inexperienced traders loose with such dangerous financial instruments. (In June, tragedy followed when a young trader misread his online trading statement and thought he was $700,000 in debt.) Online platforms have opened some doors that would have been best left closed.

Our goal here at is to make investing more accessible, more transparent, and more understandable for our clients. Part of that mission is making sure that we are not steering clients into inappropriate investments, a protection that do-it-yourselfers trading online lack.

We do not believe our role as advisors is to play “high priest” and tell you that we cannot be bothered to explain things to laypeople: we want to lay everything out on the table and make sure that our clients understand what they are getting into.

Clients, if you have any questions or concerns please call or email us.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Stock investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal.

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Making Sense of the Data Flood

© Can Stock Photo / SergeyNivens

In the 21st century, information seems to be a thousand times more abundant than we could have dreamed of just a few decades ago. An insight into the olden days may be the best way to illustrate this.

When I first became qualified to work with investment securities, I would maintain a list of topics to research. It might be a specific company or an investment product, or some aspect of the economy. Day by day, new items would go on the list.

Every other week, I spent a morning in the library. Stock reports from S&P Marketscope and ValueLine were available there, in large binders. The financial newspapers and other reference works were available, too. I would chew through the items on my list all morning, then make telephone calls that afternoon and evening to report my findings.

No internet, no email, no cell phones.

Now, of course, we interact with economists and research analysts and portfolio managers in real time via webinars, Twitter, and conference calls. Research on thousands of companies is at our fingertips. Data and analysis subscriptions supplement the expert resources made available by LPL Financial and our other institutional partners.

Instead of writing research topics down in a notebook to be studied in the library days later, we often can respond to client inquiries almost instantly, and always quickly.

The key element in our approach is not the flood of information available. By itself, that flood would drown anybody. Instead, it is in the experience and knowledge we bring, in order to understand the narratives and themes lurking in the data. Context and perspective is vital.

When you have read thousands of pages of research, annual reports, and SEC filings, you develop an understanding of what is pertinent, and what may be disregarded. Greg Leibman, in his ninth year here, does a lot of the heavy lifting.

We are fortunate to be alive in this day and age, able to take advantage of the opportunities to operate more effectively on your behalf. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.