Phishing Smishing: If you didn’t order it, don’t click on it.

It’s the oldest online scam in your inbox: They send out an official looking e-mail. “Your password has expired,”  “Your account is in arrears,”  “Please verify a charge,” or some emergency that needs you ASAP.  These are the tricks “phishers” use to get you to click 1st and think 2nd. So how do you protect yourself from phishing schemes?

BE WARY OF E-MAILS WITH LINKS YOU DID NOT REQUEST

Very simply–if you see an official looking communication from your bank, credit card, Amazon or any entity, directing you to take action by clicking a link–don’t!  Click it, and the bad guys verify your existence.

COMPANIES DON’T ASK FOR PASSWORDS IN E-MAILS

Hackers are really good at creating phony e-mails that look like the real thing.  The company “will never ask you for your password in an e-mail or send you a password as an attachment.”  The same goes for the IRS, banks and other officials–if you’re under an audit, you’ll be notified by the US mail. You don’t need to sign into an account that’s probably bogus.

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE E-MAIL

Fake e-mails usually look spot on, but there’s often a typo, a mis-spelled word, a contact address that isn’t a google.com or amazon.com , but instead a webmail address. Perhaps you have a Wells Fargo account and get an email from: Wells Fargo Support. Looks legit, but would they use WellsFargoSupport@gmail.com   Not likely!  I have even seen domains registered close to the legitimate such as info@amazzon.com   Just a small misspelling could get your information compromised.

Many times the pages served by these links are not secure. They will show up as http:// instead of secure https:// The S stands for secure, by the way.

WHAT IF A FRIEND SENDS YOU AN E-MAIL WITH JUST A LINK?

Be wary, inspect it, ask the friend what the intent was before agreeing to click on the link. If it doesn’t seem legit, don’t be tempted, just delete it.  If the e-mail is from a company, and you’re addressed as “sir” or “madam” and not by your name, and you’re also asked to fill out a form, the smartest solution–don’t.

SMISHING: MOBILE MAKES IT HARDER

Smishing is a phishing scam that is sent over Short Message Service (SMS) Text message. It’s not just your inbox that they are after anymore.  Most texting fraud is an attempt to get your private information by responding by text.   They often use fear tactics to get you to respond hastily.  In an age where we live on our smart phones, these fraud attempts are smaller, harder to spot, and more frequent, so you’ll need to be that more diligent and take the time for inspection.

HOW TO RESPOND TO A COMPANY WE TRUST?

Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and other companies routinely ask us, via an e-mail, to update our passwords when we’ve forgotten them. Their pages look authentic, and they offer e-mails with links when we ask for a reminder. So why should I click their link when they send it to re-set the password? Because you requested it from the company.  If you’re worried and want to play it safe, skip clicking in any email and go straight to your browser. Most company websites let you change your password at their registered .com addresses, by going to the account section and opting for a new password.

Finally, it goes without saying, while I have your attention, that this is a great time to update your passwords with hacker proof collections of numbers, symbols, upper and lower-case letters. Stay away from hacker favorites like “password,” 123456″ the name of your street, default, or your pet’s name.

Long passwords from a pass phrase work well. “JimwasmyfavoriteCollegePal1” is an example of a strong password.  There are secure password manager programs such as Roboform, https://www.roboform.com/ that can also securely help you keep track of your passwords.

WHAT TO DO IF I GET IN TROUBLE?

Always act quickly when you come face to face with a potential fraud, especially if you’ve lost money or believe your identity has been stolen.

FBI – If a phishing scam rolls into your email box, be sure to tell the company right away. You can also report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/

SEC – If the email purports to come from the Securities and Exchange Commission, alert the SEC by submitting a tip online at https://denebleo.sec.gov/TCRExternal/disclaimer.xhtml

FTC– If you think that your personal information has been stolen, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s feature on Identity Theft at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft for information on how to control the damage.

High Yield Returns When Yield Spreads Are Low

This blog is taken from our January 2017 newsletter discussing yield spreads.

High Yield Returns

The yield differential between high yield bonds and US government bonds is currently only about 3.8%. This indicates that the yield on high yield bonds is paying 6.3%, where 10year government bonds only yield 2.5%.

A normal range for this yield spread is between 3% and 7%.  The lower this number is, the lower the potential returns are.

Looking at what happened in 2004, when we were midway in an economic expansion and the yield spreads were about where they are today, these charts illustrate the returns for the three years following this similar economic period. Total returns for the next few years averaged about 8.5% annually for high yield bonds. If the yield spread continues to drop, high yield bonds should continue to appreciate, but if this spread drops below 3%, a defensive strategy is likely.  Currently the yield spread is 3.33%

*The CSFB High Yield Index is designed to mirror the investible universe of the $US-denominated high yield debt market.

 

Why Use Leverage?

 

Leverage is a tool that most people use on a daily basis without the knowledge they are even using it. Think of a home mortgage, this is leverage. A person is able to put down 15-20% the actual cost of the home and borrow the remainder. That person has now leveraged their money 4-5 times beyond its normal purchasing power.

Spectrum uses leverage in some of our SMA accounts and sub-advised mutual funds to borrow money or increase exposure to potentially increase potential returns when our proprietary models indicate risk is lower and trends are established. Below is a graph showing a sampling of these periods.


Managing high yield bonds has been Spectrum’s core investment strategy since offering investment management services in 1988. We have seen about every scenario possible—war, the great recession, over- and under-valuation, and have had experience in all of them. We understand bonds, and consider them predictable, since we have observed them for over 10,000 days. If we can borrow money at 2% and purchase bonds that yield 7%, we can make a net gain of 5% in addition to the 7% bond yield. This is called “carry trade”. However, we need to have liquidity to exit these positions when they are no longer in an uptrend. Since all the funds we use have daily liquidity, we can use this strategy when appropriate without having to ride out a serious decline. So our philosophy is simply; there are times when it is good to own them, good to stand aside, and even times to consider borrowing money to own more for short periods of time when “the wind is at your back”.

Give me your Credit Card

Most of us do some shopping online. Some of us a lot! So how can we stay safe with using our credit card for all those purchases? Here are a few tips that go a long way toward protecting your assets while taking care of business:

Only shop at sites you know and trust. Most of the problems come from sites that are just a little off the beaten path. That “Unbeatable Deal!” might be a trick to steal your credit card info. But, large well-known sites are seldom a problem.

Credit is safer than Debit. Credit cards have some built-in protection like a limit on your liability. It can be as low as $50 or even zero-liability. Debit cards do not have this same protection.

Secure sites. A secure site encrypts your credit information so it can’t be stolen. Look in the website address for the extra “s” near the beginning. “https”. This means that the site is secure. It doesn’t mean that your 100% safe, but it helps a lot.

PayPal. Is PayPal safe? Absolutely. It may be safer than your credit card because it has powerful fraud and consumer protections in place. If you use PayPal, it’s best to link it to your credit card, not your bank account. This way you’ll also gain the extra layer of protection that your credit card provides. Double protection!

Protect your social. Never give out your social security number for a purchase. It’s never needed for an online transaction. If they ask for it or for more info than is needed for the transaction, cancel the purchase and run.

Review your transactions regularly. Small unfamiliar charges that show up on your bank statement could be a test from a hacker, and can give them the green light to larger fraudulent charges.

Stay Private. Don’t do online transactions on public computers or Wi-Fi. Your credentials could be saved or hacked. This could lead to identity theft or fraudulent credit card charges.

Rising Interest Rate Risk

Spectrum continues to get many questions about investing in bonds in a rising interest rate environment.

The study below shows an updated chart illustrating every period of rising government bond rates for four or more quarters since 1982. These results show that while government bonds can have loses due to interest rate risk, high yield bonds can have gains.

The CSFB High Yield Index (CSHY) is designed to mirror the investible universe of the $US-denominated high yield debt market. *Data obtained from Bloomberg.

The primary reason for this is that interest rates generally increase when economic indicators are improving, causing government bond prices to go down. However, an improving economy reduces the risk of owning high yield bonds because they should strengthen as their credit rating improves. High yield bonds act more like stocks than bonds in a favorable economic environment. This is consistent with the Federal Reserve’s commitment to keep rates low until the economy is stronger.

We believe high yield bonds should have more room to continue to be profitable in any case.

An impending recession would provide reason to reduce high yield bond exposure due to the fact that risk of default is high. By moving to a cash position when a recession becomes likely, we will be in a position to reinvest the funds and take advantage of a purchase at much lower prices. Currently high yield bonds offer a yield of 3.6% more than government bonds.

This writing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, a solicitation to buy, or a recommendation regarding any securities transaction, or as an offer to provide advisory or other services by Spectrum Financial, Inc. in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction. The information contained in this writing should not be construed as financial or investment advice on any subject matter. Spectrum Financial, Inc. expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken based on any or all of the information on this writing.  For full disclosure please see disclosures page here.

 

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