“Baby you’re a rich man/baby you’re a rich man, too,” sang The Beatles in 1967.
If you’re Carrie Brown, you likely could have said something very similar to your best friend, Tina Caronna, while you enjoyed the financial fruits of her husband’s labor. Tina’s scam-artist husband, Joe, convinced Carrie to buy insurance and annuities from him, promising that the returns would be huge — a deception that netted the Caronnas huge homes and flashy sports cars in the process.
But unbeknownst to everyone else, Joe was secretly ripping off Carrie and scores of other family members and friends who’d bought from him. Not just the money they’d paid him, but in some cases, Joe’s reaching even extended down into their life savings. Presently, Joe Caronna faces 85 months in federal prison for his crimes, which ultimately landed him a stash of $700,000 from nearly 20 people. That’s all from CNBC, which recently ran a special on the story.
The scary part? If you think that Joe’s crimes are some kind of anomaly, think again. According to one recent survey conducted by a financial planning company, 33% of people don’t know how they’re paying for their investment advice. And the risks for online scams keep increasing the more the Internet becomes ingrained into the fabric of daily living.
In the last week alone, the Better Business Bureau has alerted web users to two dangerous scams that could have serious financial repercussions for the victim. One involves Netflix, the popular online movie- and TV show-streaming service, which also has traditionally had a great reputation with its users. A fake log-in screen could dupe users into entering their personal information, then a faux-Netflix account will send an email urging the user to download “Netflix support software.” This is, in fact, harmful malware that could lead to a theft of sensitive information (like your social security number).
The other scam involves preying on the fears of elder seniors by letting them think their grandchildren are somehow in harm’s way and in need of financial assistance.
So, what can you do to protect your financial investments and your savings accounts? It’s all about checking in on your amounts periodically and always being sure of how much you have. Losing track of your monetary numbers can allow a window of opportunity for a scam artist to dip into your savings potentially without you even noticing. CNBC’s Suze Orman encourages you to do your own research when looking into any kind of transaction involving your finances — even when it’s through a person that a family member or friend has vouched for. Remember, friends vouched for Joe Caronna, too.