I Didn’t Claim Unemployment Insurance….Why Did I Receive This Card?

A notice from the Department of Labor arrived last week saying that I had filed for unemployment, which is weird, because I had not fired myself! After making sure I was, in fact, still part of my team, I discovered what was going on.  There has been a rash of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims around the country and it seems I am now entangled in them.

It happened to me as an employer and as employee, it happened to my teammates as employees, it happened to my colleague’s mother and to my wife, it happened to my clients: it’s happening everywhere. Not only are the consequences bothersome to correct, but we’re the lucky ones.  This is just a hassle for us, but it’s real life for millions of Americans who count on the insurance. The criminals perpetrating these acts are causing further pain for those who need it at the worst time possible.

Unemployment Insurance Is Not A New Program, Why Has It Become The Biggest Fraud Target?

cares act funds flow chart

Source: Howmuch.net

Unemployment Insurance, and Unemployment Insurance Fraud, are not a new phenomenon. But the CARES Act in 2020 was designed to help as many people as fast as possible during one of the worst global pandemics of all time.  Unemployment Insurance got a “boost” from the CARES Act in the form of “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” or PUA.  This not only increased the amount of relief for unemployment claimants, but also broadened the definition of who could claim unemployment.  Previously self-employed individuals, gig workers, freelancers, part-time employees, and contractors did not qualify for unemployment, but the PUA opened up the program to these groups as well.  Despite the good intent, criminals quickly used this newfound loophole to concoct schemes and steal more money.  Of the $560B in relief allocated to individuals, $260B was intended for extra unemployment benefits. Combined with an overstrained government office just trying to keep up, this proved to be a target-rich environment for criminals.

How Many People Have Been Affected?  How Much of the $260B Has Landed In The Wrong Hands?

The Department of Labor believes $36B dollars have been lost to fraudulent unemployment claims in the last year as of January 5th according to CNBC. As the CARES Act and others were updated during the national fight against COVID, the budget for additional unemployment insurance ballooned another $100B, to $360B in total, and the confirmed fraud loss now equals 10% of all payments.  The count is not over yet either.  With 8 million recipients on file as of December 2020 it will take years to figure out how much aid fell into the wrong hands.  State agencies still believe that 35%-40% of all new applications are fraudulent.  But the good news is that this type of fraud is going to get tougher with new measures instituted with the most recent relief package. Now applicants must provide confirmation of their identity and job status in order to qualify.  That may result in a delay of benefits, but the new measures should help to close the flood gates and prevent our tax dollars from landing in the wrong hands.

How Do I Know If It Has Happened To Me?  What Do I Do If It Has?

You are your own best defense when it comes to protecting your identity, credit, and status.  We monitor our life insurance, our property insurance, and our health insurance, but we are slow to invest in insuring our identities.  We must face the fact that no matter how well we think we have kept our private information out of the hands of the public, it exists in websites and databases outside of our control.  The major data breaches of the past decade have potentially touched most consumers. That is our new normal.

I would encourage you to sign up for a credit monitoring service or at the very least, get your free credit report and monitor your activity yourself.  If you don’t intend to apply for new credit in the near future, consider “freezing” your credit by contacting each of the three reporting agencies. This may help secure your credit, but it may not help with unemployment fraud.

If you learn that someone is trying to claim a benefit with your identity, alert the Colorado Department of Labor immediately.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything back from them quickly as, they are dealing with thousands of claims every week.  If you get the VISA debit card loaded with your benefit payment, don’t use it! Instead, go to the card website and cancel it. Also be sure to monitor your bank accounts and mail for additional discrepancies.

We have put together a helpful Identity Theft response document with websites, phone numbers and a checklist of what to do should you be affected. Please have a look and contact me if you have questions.

It is an unfortunate reality.  Our country, and the world, have been upended in so many ways this past year. Substantial legislation designed to help many has unfortunately been targeted by those looking to make a quick buck. Unemployment Insurance is a helpful tool in keeping our communities and economy healthy, but we need to play a part in making sure that we protect ourselves and our tax dollars from being misused.

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Press Release: Steve Booren Recognized by Barron’s as a 2021 Top Financial Advisor

Steve Booren named a Barron's Top Advisor

DENVER, Colo.— March 25, 2021 – Steve Booren, an independent LPL Financial advisor in Greenwood Village, has been recognized as one of the 2021 Top 1,200 Financial Advisors in America, as ranked by Barron’s. Booren, Founder of Prosperion Financial Advisors was recognized as the 15 advisor in Colorado. Read more

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Improving Investor Behavior – Progress and Perspective

Open Sign

Note

This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, March 21, 2021.

Headlines would have you believe COVID has left Americans in financial tatters, but when looking at the broad data, I can’t make the same conclusion.  

Make no mistake, COVID and the resulting restrictions have left a great many people struggling with their finances. Until we are back to “business as usual,” the situation for those folks is unlikely to get substantively better. But the narrative that COVID has upended our financial system is an easy one in which to get wrapped up and even easier on which to extrapolate. Remember, perspective is everything.  

Looking at our progress is a great reminder of how far we’ve come.   Read more

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How Women Business Owners Can Save For Retirement And Reduce Taxes

Woman doing taxes

Women are expected to live another 21 years after retiring at age 65––three years longer than their male counterparts. Despite this fact, women are shockingly ill-prepared for retirement, having fewer investments and less money saved on average than men. Additionally, since women live longer, they are more at risk to experience greater inflation or market instability, making their retirement investments particularly vulnerable. In general, familial caregiving responsibilities, such as for an elderly parent or a newborn, also often fall primarily on the women’s shoulders, giving many women less time in the workforce and ultimately less money to save for retirement.[1]

Read more

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PRESS RELEASE: Steve Booren Recognized in Forbes as a 2021 Best-in-State Wealth Advisor

Forbes Best In State Wealth Advisor Steve Booren

DENVER, Colo. — February 11, 2021 – Steve Booren of Prosperion Financial Advisors was recently ranked No. 34 in Colorado in the 2021 Best-In-State Wealth Advisors list published by Forbes.  

According to Forbes, the annual list spotlights the nation’s top-performing advisors, evaluated based on a methodology developed by SHOOK Research. Advisors are also evaluated based on personal interviews, industry experience and revenue trends, among other criteria.

“On behalf of LPL Financial, we congratulate Steve Booren for being recognized on this year’s Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisors list. This past year has demonstrated that strong financial advice cannot be underestimated, and that personalized financial advice is critical in helping clients work toward achieving their short and long-term financial goals,” said Angela Xavier, LPL executive vice president, Independent Advisor Services. “We applaud Steve for continuing to raise the bar in our industry and demonstrate the value of the independent model in creating meaningful and long-lasting investor-advisor relationships.” Read more

Intelligent Investing: Overcoming Inflation Using a Familiar Friend (Part 2)

shopping at the market
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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, February 21, 2021.

For investors, inflation is the erosion of your money, a “cancer,” if you will. It is the slow, subtle decline in what your money buys or the purchasing power of your money. Last month we covered what inflation is, how it works, and where it may be heading in the future. If you’re unfamiliar with inflation, I’d encourage you to refer to my column published on January 17, 2021.

At the end of the day people invest for income, either for today or tomorrow. Protecting the purchasing power of that income is critical. But investors want to have their cake and eat it too. To grow investments and income at a rate that outpaces inflation, one must be willing to endure the “wiggles” that come with stock investing. Investors may seek protection from volatility through bonds or fixed-income investments that don’t fluctuate like owning businesses (stocks), but this strategy is shortsighted. Read more

What I Do & How I Help

generic photo of puzzle pieces

Planning is a part of life. We plan our days, our years, our vacations, our careers…the list goes on. It’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day planning and focus only on what’s in front of us that we forget to do the most important planning of all: financial planning. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we never know what’s around the corner. You need a rock-solid plan to feel confident as you navigate life’s twists and turns. Read more

It’s A New Year! Is It Time To Reevaluate Your Financial Plan?

pathway to 2021

A new year is often a time for fresh starts, intentional planning, and renewed motivation to conquer goals and accomplish things that are important to you. And after the year we just had, a fresh start is just what we need. As you transition into 2021 and all this year will bring, use this time to take a look at your financial plan to make sure it’s still on track to get you to your goals, no matter how many obstacles life has thrown at you lately! Here’s how to get started.

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Improving Investor Behavior: Understanding inflation, the cancer of retirement planning (Part 1)

Citrus fruit in a grocery aisle

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, January 17th, 2021.

One of the greatest challenges to retirees and investors alike is inflation. Not only is this principle often forgotten, but rarely understood. So let’s discuss inflation: what it is, where it’s been, and where it might be going in the future. How can you as an investor combat inflation over long periods of time, helping to ensure that the purchasing power of your money remains unchanged for years to come?

Inflation is an economic phenomenon of price increases. Traditionally a result of increased raw material pricing (like steel or lumber), inflation also occurs when there is increased demand or less supply. Both roads lead in one direction: higher prices. We all experience inflation when we look at the cost of what we purchase over time. Compare what you paid for food, computers, prescriptions, or rent five years ago. It is an easy way to see inflation. Think about purchasing a car or a house 30 years ago versus today. Inflation is all around us.

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Improving Investor Behavior – Hindsight in 2020

Marquis displaying "The World is Temporarily Closed"

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, December 20th, 2020.

They say hindsight is 20/20, and as we make the year 2020 hindsight, it’s a good time to reflect. What did we learn? What surprised us? How can we use our past to make our future bigger and better?

It was former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who said it’s the “unknown unknowns” that get you. Unlike a “known unknown,” something we expect but don’t quite know the outcome, an unknown unknown is something no one could have predicted. The election was a known unknown: somebody would get elected; we just weren’t sure who. The circumstances may have been unusual, but there was going to be an outcome that we could anticipate.

An unknown unknown is something like COVID-19: something that comes out of left field and creates uncertainty through its mere existence. We did not understand its nature, the impact, the contagiousness, how to treat it, who would be the most vulnerable, what the effect would be on our healthcare system or how people would react to it. Even ten months later, there is still much we don’t know. Read more