Recently there has been a widespread focus on fake news, which perhaps could be called an online version of the tabloids.
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According to a new telephone survey of 1,018 adults conducted in March 2017 for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) by Harris Poll in support of National Financial Capability Month, fake financial news has the potential to be a real serious problem impacting Americans’ ability to make retirement, investment and health care decisions. A majority of Americans feel that fake news is going to become more prevalent in the future and could pose a threat on their ability to navigate their financial lives.
More than 3-in-5 Americans (63 percent) say that the spread of fake news has made it more difficult to make critical financial decisions. Specifically, they’re having a harder time with health care decisions (44 percent), investing in the stock market (40 percent), retiring (36 percent) and buying or selling a house (35 percent). Additionally, 35 percent reported having trouble deciding if they should start a business and 29 percent said it was harder to decide if they should switch jobs.
Neal Stern, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, discussed with FOX Business the impact of fake financial news on Americans’ decision making. Here is what you need to know.
Boomer: How can Baby Boomers protect their retirement portfolios from fake news?
Stern: The relatively large retirement portfolios of Baby Boomers makes them an attractive target for misinformation intended to induce actions that can help someone profit at their expense. Avoid quick, reactive decisions based on “sound bites” or unsubstantiated news that may turn out to be planted rumors, and validate what you hear or read with an established reputable source before taking action. Be cautious about opinions or assertions about the financial consequences of breaking news, even if the news itself is real. It takes a lifetime to build up a retirement portfolio, but it can be lost in one rash decision. Consider working with a qualified financial advisor who can help you manage your retirement portfolio for the long haul.
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Boomer: Where can Boomers go to research the reporting of fake news?
Stern: Try going back to the subject of the purported news. For example, many company websites have “newsroom” sections, where you should find the company’s press release or statement about a major development – if it’s real. Likewise, most government actions are made public in official statements on the government agency’s web site. Be especially wary of news from a blog or similar online source that you can’t validate anywhere else.
Boomer: What is website spoofing?
Stern: A website can be designed to intentionally mislead the viewer that it is the legitimate site of a trusted business or organization when it is actually a fake or “spoof” that looks remarkably similar, including the same logo and other familiar features and even a very similar web address. Watch out for small differences from the real address – for example, “youbank.org” or “yourbank.us” is different from “yourbank.com.” Misspellings are another telltale sign, although the perpetrators are getting better at this. The intent may be to get you to log into the fake web site with your real password, allowing wrongdoers to access your accounts. Be especially cautious when you’ve accessed a website by clicking on an e-mail link or anything posted on social media, since that’s an easy way for a spoofer to get you to a fake site. If you're in doubt, call the business or financial institution before you enter a password or enter any information on line.
Boomer: Where can you go to navigate the sea of potential misinformation?
Stern: Start by being an educated consumer of the news and purported news. And consider working with a qualified financial adviser, who can help you navigate and execute on a plan for the long term – which may have better results than trying to react to the daily stream of rumors and news. Some so-called advisers are little more than salespeople, so look for a solid reputation and experience. Since impressive sounding credentials can be bought or even made up, seek out someone with a credential that evidences extensive training and a commitment to placing the needs of the client first and check with your state to be sure they have the required registrations.