By Haddon Libby

Ponzi schemes, cyber-crimes and identity theft are increasing.  Places with high concentrations of wealth and older Americans like the Coachella Valley experience higher rates of illicit activity.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Let’s start with Ponzi schemes.


Be suspicious of anyone trying to get money from you.  If the person(s) says that there is a short window to invest, be leery.  If the returns seem too good to be true, they probably are.  If they are asking you to invest in a business that you do not understand, find someone who understands that business area to vet the potential investment.

Check the backgrounds of the people involved to see if they are who they say they are.  For as little as $20, you can use a service like Intelius.  These sites are a good way to see where someone has lived, what businesses they are involved in and whether they have a history in the courts.  If you find a criminal past, you can go to the jurisdiction where the offense happened and look up the specifics of that case.  Also check the background and history of the companies as well as the person trying to raise funds.  Crooks will often create companies in locations like Nevada or Wyoming as investor protections are amongst the lowest in the world in those states.

Cybercrime has grown exponentially over the last few years thanks to the tacit support of rogue nations including China, Russia and North Korea.  Hacks have been successful at stealing your personal information from places like the US Government, UnitedHealth, Microsoft, and countless companies.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lose roughly $10 billion each year to fraud or identity theft.  Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that business will lose $9 trillion by the end of next year with global losses of more than $10 trillion each year.

One of the more common crimes on senior Americans is an urgent call related to a Medicare plan.  The scammer will call and know private health information and urge a payment to maintain coverage.  If anyone tries to get money from you, hang up and call the provider of that insurance directly to make sure that the request is legitimate.  Anyone asking for a prepaid debit cards is likely a con artist.

Due to data breaches, there is a good chance that someone may be spying on your email activity.

A common approach is to ‘spoof’ you.  This is where the bad guy injects themselves into the middle of a conversation stream and requests money.  As an example, if your address is, the spoof with change the email address to  Given the way that many emails only show the sender’s name, it is very easy to miss that extra ‘c’.

To protect yourself, scan your computer for spyware or malware with a service like Norton Antivirus.  If you have a private email account (, check with your provider to make sure that the bad guys are not spying by getting copies of all emails.

Use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on all your most important accounts like those with your bank, investment advisor, medical provider, etc.  This is where a code is sent to your cell phone prior to allowing access.

Be leery of suspiciously timed emails.  If the bad guys are spying on you, you will often get emails trying to get you to click on something or send money right after a legitimate email has been sent or received.

Use a password/credential manager like Dashlane.  Password managers create longer and more complicated passwords that frustrate cybercriminals.  This avoids an easy hack that comes from the reuse of passwords when logging in to sites online.

Lastly, make sure to back up all critical information.  If all of your pictures or critical documents are held in a online cloud service like Microsoft, Apple or Google, hacks that lock your computers cannot ransom your data.

Haddon Libby is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of RIA firm, Winslow Drake Investment Management.  To learn how a fiduciary RIA like Winslow Drake is preferable to a broker, please visit