Understanding the Differences Between Financial Advisors and Brokers

Advice Channel
Advisors Channel

As a fee-only financial advisor, I am surely biased to this type of advisor. I do think everyday investors are much better off if they have someone in their corner who is recommending a particular investment product because it actually is the best product for them, given their circumstances and life stage. Not because there’s a commission on the sale at the end of the day.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you shouldn’t be mindful of possible issues – and that’s for any financial advisor, whether fee-based or full-service brokers. For that matter, you also should be mindful of potential drawbacks to other options that may seem (superficially, at least) appealing.

Let’s look at the options.

Fee-only financial advisors are considered advantageous because there’s no inherent conflict of interest as there can be with full-service or commission-based brokers. Brokers often recommend investments owned by their company, which is an inherent conflict.  You simply have to consider whether the products recommended are going to be best for your personal financial goals.

What you pay for is financial guidance, planning and assistance. This may be a flat fee. Some advisors charge a percentage of your account’s assets. You may be able to negotiate the amount. But, the fees you pay do not fluctuate according to the type of investments that are being recommended. What you get with this approach is objectivity and investment advice that’s unbiased. Your interests and your advisor’s are aligned.

The commission-based approach to financial advisory services is less the norm today than in the past. You open an account or buy a stock or bond and your advisor gets a percentage. Recurrent trading may also be encouraged – which may not be good for investors with a longer-term perspective. This all can pose a conflict with your best interests and goals.

And on the do-it-yourself front? Well, as attractive as this might sound on the surface, consider the relevance of the saying about the attorney who represents himself. For investment purposes, you might find good information online, but it’s just as likely you’ll find speculative information, if not real fake news. Investing is a risky business; if you don’t have the time or the expertise to do an adequate job of qualifying research, get a professional to help. Your future – financial and otherwise – depends on it.

Speaking of your financial future, it’s never too early to start planning for it. That means Millennials – and even the oldest Generation Zs who are just entering the workforce – should be putting money aside as they think about their long-term financial goals. It’s a challenge, of course, especially for those who are still trying to pay off college. Retirement is maybe too much to think about, right?

With that said, I’ve developed a service package to make it less painless. My new Robo-Advisor Professional service package is specifically targeted to the needs of Millennials and utilizes an in-depth financial data collection sheet, as well as a plan discussion with myself, to collect essential information about your financial background and goals.  This provides a strong base of understanding for clients to invest in ETFs through WealthSimple with a superior portfolio manager with a track record of beating the index.

ETFs are ideal for those with more limited resources, as a “wrapper” around a group of securities. They have a cost advantage over individual stocks and can be traded commission free. They’re similar to mutual funds, but with more flexibility as they can be traded throughout the day, not just once.


MONEY News: Mergers and Acquisitions- AT&T and Time Warner Inc.

AT&T’s Stock Could Be a Great Bargain for Investors

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) reached a new 52-week low on Tuesday as the company released its third-quarter earnings which failed to impress investors. AT&T’s revenue of $39.67 billion fell short of the $40.10 billion that was expected. Year-over-year, sales were down 3% as the company saw a decline in its legacy wireline services as well as its consumer mobility segment. Earnings per share of $0.74 also fell short of estimates, just narrowly missing the $0.75 that was expected by analysts.

AT&T also add less wireless customers than was expected, although their postpaid churn rate of 0.84% was well below the 1.08% estimated by analysts.

Despite a soft quarter, AT&T did not adjust down its guidance for 2017.

The stock was only down 1% on the disappointing results, but this is because earlier in the month AT&T’s stock declined 6% when the company sent out a warning stating that it was going to show a net loss of 90,000 video subscribers in the coming quarter.

Had the company not sent out that warning, we likely would have seen more of a decline in the share price. However, there is reason for optimism with the company still working on closing its acquisition of Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX), which will further expand its offerings and solidify a stronger grip on the market.

With a dividend of 5.6% and a price to earnings multiple of just 16, AT&T might be a great buy coming off a poorer than expected earnings result. Over the long term the future should present plenty of opportunities for growth that will more than offset any short-term struggles.

Top 3 Cyrptocurrency Wallet Options for 2017

The interest in cryptocurrency is still growing and it is no longer just a game for geeks or an easier way for the (much) shadier businessmen of the world to conduct their financial transactions. Trading and accumulating cryptocurrency is now being viewed as a legitimate investment opportunity by some more forward thinking people from all walks of life – from a lawyer like www.atlantacaraccidentlawyer.com to Reading real estate brokers, and many more.

There are a number of basics the cryptocurrency newbie needs as they build their new skills – and potentially their new wealth as well. One of the most important of all is a good wallet

What is a Wallet for Cryptocurrency? 

As cryptocurrency of any kind is not actually a physical commodity you obviously do not need a traditional physical wallet to keep it in, but you do still need a wallet. Most of those currently on the market look more like a USB storage card than anything else – if they have a physical component at all, some are just software – but within their tiny ‘brains’ investors store their currency, make their trades and keep up with their records, all within a secure, portable environment.

As cryptocurrency gains popularity so does the number of these wallets available. So which should you choose? Here’s a look at our top three wallet choices

Trezor – Hardware Wallet

As far as hardware wallets go, it is Trezor’s reputation for maintaining the best possible security measures to prevent both physical and virtual theft that is usually considered to set it ahead of the rest of the crowd.

From a looks standpoint it is not as stylish and sleek as some of its peers, but it boasts excellent functionality and versatility, able to store multiple currencies and, even if you make use of a PC that then falls victim to a malware attack your private currency keys are guaranteed to be safe. And that kind of security is probably well worth the style trade off any day of the week.

Ledger Nano S – Hardware Wallet

This is, in the mind of many, the very best choice when it comes to a hardware-based cryptocurrency wallet that is reasonably priced (around $65). Thanks to a series of proprietary apps, it can accommodate multiple currencies at one time – it currently supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Altcoins and Ripple – and it can be used in conjunction with almost any PC, laptop or tablet via a simple USB connection. Once connected it embeds a secure OLED screen to double check and confirm transactions. Its security features are considered to be second to none but as it is a larger investment in terms of price than many of its peers it may be a purchase to delay until you are sure you’re serious about the whole endeavor in the first place.

Jaxx – Software Wallet

Some people just don’t want to be bothered with a traditional cryptocurrency wallet any longer but they find that restricting themselves to a PC based software is inconvenient as well. Until recently though it was a choice of one or the other but the launch of Jaxx has changed that.

You see, Jaxx is an app, an app available for both iOS and Android devices. Once installed – and it can be installed to a PC as well – you can receive funds, view transactions, scan codes and more, even if you are miles from the nearest USB port. There is one downside though. Making use of Jaxx calls for a fairly high level of technical know-how and it does boast a pretty steep learning curve versus a hardware wallet. However, if you have the time and patience to learn, then this free app (yes, free) might very well be worth a try.

Saving Money Using The Internet

The internet can do a lot to save you money, whether you’re trying to spend less for yourself or for your work. Businesses save money online just as easy as individuals do. In fact, businesses can save even more money by doing more things on the internet. Here’s how.

Make Calls Online

Instead of spending a bunch of money on a landline phone system for your business you can invest in VoIP, which not only saves you money but also allows you to communicate through your work number from anywhere you have internet access (you can’t do that with a landline).

The internet has also made video calling, something that was once just imagined in the scripts of science fiction shows, actually possible. You can talk to friends and family members, or business associates and clients, using video calling. If you’re using it for work, you may want to find a good company to go through. For individuals, Skype is a fine, free, option for staying in touch.

Email Your Items

Skip a trip to the post office if you can. Instead of mailing papers via the old school snail mail way, send them in an email. You’ll still need the post office to mail packages, but why waste money on stamps when someone else can pay for the ink to print the papers and files you need to get to them?

Not only are you saving money on stamps by emailing people, you’re also saving money on gas. You can also pay for mailing labels and schedule pick-ups for boxed and bigger items, so you still don’t need to leave the house!

Sell Through Your Own Website

Instead of paying fees to someone else to sell your stuff (like Etsy and eBay) pay one extra fee to turn your own website into an eCommerce site and just sell from there. This allows you more freedom and fewer fees. You can also try to sell through social media, for free.

By setting up your own online shop you can be the boss of how your pages look. You get to pick the photo sizes and details. You get to say whatever you want about your products or services as well.

Use Social Media For Advertising

Social media is a good place to sell sometimes, but it is also a great place to advertise. Unless you want to pay for boosts from Facebook or Twitter, you can basically advertise for free.

Share links to your products, tell people about sales you are havin, and use social media to launch your new products and services too. Social media allows you to reach people across the world, from all demographics. And it just takes a little bit of time commitment from you.

Marketing Methods That Make Money

Not all marketing techniques are created equal.  There are good and bad marketing practices.  To create a successful enterprise, there must be a solid foundation supporting the company’s marketing department.  A foundation of knowledge and competence will support a winning marketing campaign.

More specifically, small business marketing may add a bit of a challenge to overcome.  Many small, start-up businesses do not have much money to put forth towards marketing efforts, but marketing is imperative.  Here are a few affordable and efficient marketing methods that will make money.

Social Media

Link social media sites to the company website.  Check out the way this web designer chose to incorporate these media giants.  Most web designs incorporate social media into only one piece of their site, but it is far more efficient to build a site that has consistent and instant access to the biggest social media platforms available.


Building an engaging and enriching blog presence will build rapport with the online community.  A company’s blog allows prospective clients the ability to get to know with whom they are working.

It also allows for a company to spread its wings of knowledge and clearly display it for the online world to see.  Linking the business’s blog to their social media site will offer an enriching cross-marketing experience that will cost little to nothing.

Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most affordable and most effective methods of marketing for small businesses.  Most people do not mind offering up their personal email address for the chance to have a little inside information about their favorite businesses.  Take advantage of their interests and send out a weekly newsletter.

Be available to the public

It should never be difficult for customers to contact the company with whom they are conducting business.  Do no be a stranger to the community.  At every avenue, provide a valid method of communication.  Create a “Contact Us” link on the company website, or try offering a remote question and comment box.

Things will inevitably go wrong at some point, and the customer has the right to ease of contact.  Many people will return to a business even if something goes wrong, as long as their customer service handles the situation with respect and class.

Run contests and discounts  

People love contests.  People love saving money even more!  Running company contests and intermittent discounts is an age-old marketing method that works.  Just make it easy for people to enter, and their attention is caught.

All it takes is one moment for a person to become interested in what a company has to offer.  An effective marketing effort is built to seize that moment at every available point of contact.

ISO standards and our place in the global development community

If there’s one thing I’m particularly proud of in looking at the success of Mizrahi Developments, it is the high standards with which we hold all aspects of our operation. We are a private development company and ultimately there are business goals we set for ourselves and we take those very seriously.

Beyond the corporate imperative of running a profitable enterprise, I have always stressed the need to bring value to communities in which we are privileged to work. That’s one reason why we place such a high premium in our commitment to our ISO 9001 certification.

For those who don’t know, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization, a worldwide federation of National Standards. We are among the small but growing number of companies in Canada to align with like-minded enterprises all over the world in demanding more from ourselves. Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1946, ISO 9001 is an International Quality Management System (QMS) Standard. Its aim is to help a wide range of organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders, while also meeting statutory and regulatory requirements.

ISO 9001 is based on internationally recognized quality management principles set out by the International Standards Organization (ISO). It first became popular in Europe and has since grown to become a global standard.

As I’ve described in the media in the past, ISO is a self-imposed fitness test that Mizrahi Developments has adopted in order to ensure we are not just meeting, but surpassing the expectations of our customers. My point is, it’s not enough to simply do what is required — achieving true excellence means we as a company must strive to be the absolute best we can be in terms of running at superior levels of competence and developing real estate projects of superior quality and construction.

I would encourage other entrepreneurs and business leaders, regardless of the product or service they provide, to look seriously at this quality management system because ISO 9001 certification is recognized and respected throughout the world. Beyond that, it sends a message to clients and colleagues that you are serious about going above and beyond what’s merely expected of you.

Importantly, over the years, our adoption of ISO standards has allowed Mizrahi Developments to streamline our custom construction process by codifying all potential design changes. That creates a roadmap for us to follow and allows us to develop projects as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. It also allows us to meet timelines and budgets and, finally, provides reassurance to future residents of our buildings that there’s a third party auditing our process and ensuring we are always exceeding standards.

All to say, we are here for a relatively brief period of time. When that time draws to a close, we should consider the commitment and contribution we’ve made to our communities. In many ways, ISO is part of our commitment. I strongly believe in adding value and enriching neighbourhoods and our communities. If there’s a greater, more noble goal to strive for, I don’t
know what it could be.

How to Find the Best Online CFD Brokers

The last decade has seen unmatched growth in the online trading industry. Even the most experienced traders were shocked to see how many novice and beginner traders have joined their ranks over the past few years.

And yet, the trend is continuing strong; more traders sign up to join the market every single day. As the internet continues to grow and reaches parts of the world it has never been, even more people will be encouraged to enter the market to take advantage of this unique industry.

Joining the Trading Industry

Are you one of those traders that either just recently entered the forex or CFD trading markets, or is considering doing so? If so, then you probably know about the vast diversity that exists in the market when considering online CFD brokers and the platforms that are available to online traders. But this raises the question: how do you know which platform is the best fit for you and your trading style?

Below, we will review the characteristics that define the best online CFD brokers in order to help you decide which platforms you can trust, and which should be avoided.

Qualities of the Best Online CFD Brokers

The best brokers should give you all of the tools that you need as a trader to succeed. That means that there are certain characteristics that the best brokers should have. For example, they should give you the opportunity to invest your money on your terms. That means that you can invest your own money and capital without being pressured to invest more than you desire. Keep in mind that you are the customer here; don’t let any broker pressure you to do things you don’t want. The broker should simply be a tool to making trades, not an obstacle.

Secondly, the best online CFD brokers will offer a quality platform. For traders, the platform is the key to open the online trading door. Without one, you can’t trade in the industry. All of your interaction with the markets will take place via the platform, which is why you need to be sure you have the best platform at your disposal. Some of the tools that your platform should offer are charts that show currency values over time and up to date information about the values of assets.

Without a doubt, the platform should be consistent and stable. You don’t want to be stuck with a platform that crashes on you or isn’t available. Look for brokers that offer platforms available on desktop and mobile so you can trade from anywhere, at any time.

Last, but certainly not least, you need a platform that offers customer service. If you ever encounter an issue with your broker, you want to be sure that you have someone to talk to. So stick with a broker that has 24/7 customer service in your native language.

Overall, these are just a few things to keep in mind when considering which broker to use. For more information about online CFD brokers click here.

How can small business deal with today’s currency fluctuations?

Mal Spooner is a veteran fund manager and currently teaches at the Humber College School of Business.
Mal Spooner is a veteran fund manager and currently teaches at the Humber College School of Business.

Right now it’s no secret that selling merchandise to Americans is pretty lucrative.  We also know that it hasn’t always been this way.  A relative of mine who sells lighting products to customers the U.S. is a case in point.

My brother-in-law built a very successful business with his wife from the ground up.  Their decision to sell to markets in the US worked fine, but the real boost to sales occurred when their son joined the business and talked them into selling on the Internet.  Online sales boomed, but of course so did their company’s vulnerability to exchange rate risk.

A few years ago, he was struggling to make his usual margins (which are not that big at the best of times) when the CAD/USD exchange rate approached par.  In other words, a C$ was pretty much equal to the US$.  Cross-border shoppers from the Canadian side of the border were in heaven (myself included), whereas exporters were beginning to panic.  After all, their costs were still in Canadian dollars, which was an advantage when they received sales revenue in a much stronger $US.  Converting back into Canadian currency provided a substantial bonus to their profits and quality of life.

Things are great once again, but how can a smaller business owner(s) plan ahead to make sure that currency risk doesn’t threaten their livelihood?

The graph below illustrates the impact currency can have on a business.  Imagine a fictional Canadian company that began selling a specialty cheese to the U.S. marketplace in June of 2006. The sale price stays the same (due to competitive pressures) at US$ 2.50.  Costs are steady in C$ 1.98 range.  Sales made in US dollars must be converted back to Canadian dollars.  
USD-CAD sales and profits
It is easy to see how just the exchange rate can wreak havoc on a businesses revenues and profitability.  Is it possible to anticipate or prevent this volatility?  When companies are accustomed to very large orders, it is possible to contact your bank and make arrangements to use the currency forward markets in order to ‘hedge’ your profits.  For instance, if one expects to have to convert a significant amount of foreign currency into one’s domestic currency once the order is delivered, you can arrange to lock in the forward exchange rate today, thereby knowing exactly what your margin is (and will be).

However, the orders for most small businesses aren’t large enough to make hedging a viable option. Can you plan for currency fluctuations?  Experts agree that there is no robust way to forecast exchange rates.  Experts have been frustrated trying to predict exchange rates for years, and the forward markets/futures markets are not very good predictors of the exchange rate that will actually occur in 3 to six months.

One approach that has been around (seems like forever) is the purchasing power parity theory.  The price of a consumer product (same materials, can be sourced locally or at same prices) should be the same in different countries, once adjusting for the exchange rate.  Below, the table compares the price of the rather ubiquitous iPhone in Canada, Europe and Asia.  The price of the iPhone 6s 16GB (unlocked) in the U.S. is about $699, and should be more or less the same in Nanjing, China (their currency (is the remninbi or RMB) adjusting for the exchange rate as it is in Berlin Germany (euros).  As you can see from the table, this is not the case (the prices and exchange rates are not 100% accurate due to rounding).

iPhone intl pricing

Because Germans and the Chinese have to pay an even bigger price, it suggests the the USD is overvalued relative to those currencies.  The Canadian dollar on the other hand, based on this overly simple approach is actually still a bit overvalued compared to our neighbour to the south even at these depressed levels.  Of course, our proximity to the US might simply give Canadians a great deal on iPhones not available in other countries.

We should therefore expect the USD to depreciate relative to both the EUR and RMB in due course – the forces of supply and demand (for products, services and therefore currencies) should cause disparate prices to equilibrate.  The mobile device in theory should cost the same to the consumer no matter where he/she lives.  Should the USD decline significantly (perhaps even compared to the Canadian dollar) then the margin on good and services businesses in those countries are earning today with decline.

When sales are in another currency

The problem, is that historically purchasing power parity is also a poor predictor of exchange rates. The game of international finance is extremely complex.  Not only are exchange rates determined by differing interest rates in countries, balance of payments, trade balance, inflation rates and perceived country risks, the rates are also influenced by expectations associated with these variables and more.  The bottom line for smaller businesses is that when it comes to foreign exchange risk – they are completely exposed.

So what can be done?  Planning.  It is tempting to become overly optimistic when exchange rates have drifted in your favour, encouraging further investment to facilitate more sales in the stronger currency.  Buying equipment, hiring permanent labour and leasing more space introduces higher fixed costs that might dampen or destroy profitability when the tide turns the other way.  It is important to consider ‘what if’ scenarios frequently – and especially before laying out more capital. For entrepreneurs the biggest mistake is to take for granted that the status quo will continue.  All of a sudden, you might be buying yourself a bigger house, a fancier car and sending the kids to private school – all based on current income which is linked to the current prosperity of your business.

Currency instability is a fact of life, and the best way to be prepared is to expect the inevitable. Rather than rush to spend more on expanding the business put aside a ‘safety’ cushion during good times that can be drawn upon during bad times.  If your commitment to the US, European or other markets is firm, then park the cushion into currencies you are vulnerable too.  For example, invest your cushion in US dollar denominated assets – U.S. Treasury bills will provide a natural hedge for your sales.  Similarly, if a significant volume of your sales are in Europe and the company borrows funds for operations, borrow some funds in euros as a hedge – then if the euro appreciates you’re able to pay those obligations in the same stronger currency thanks you your euro receivables.

It is widely believed today that the USD is likely to depreciate relative to a number of other currencies, and perhaps imminently.  Today might indeed be the ideal time to begin considering ‘what if’ scenarios and the actions you can take to plan ahead.



How can I recognise a SCAM?

A very good question and here are some tips including information from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. www.antifraudcentre.ca

1. If it sounds too good to be true – guess what?!
You’ve won a big prize in a contest that you don’t recall entering. You are offered a once-in-a-lifetime investment that offers a huge return. You are told that you can buy into a lottery ticket pool that cannot lose. Oh really?
2. You must pay or you can’t play.
“You’re a winner!” BUT, you must agree to send money to the caller in order to pay for delivery, processing, taxes, duties or some other fee in order to receive your prize. Sometimes the caller will even send a courier to pick up your money. No legitimate lotteries use this process!
3. You must give them your private financial information – I think not!
The caller asks for all your confidential banking and/or credit card information. Honest businesses do not require these details. If you are placing an over-the-phone order, be extremely careful when providing credit card information – get the name of the person and an order number and record it to compare with your monthly statement.
4. Will that be cash… or cash?
Often criminal telemarketers ask you to send cash or a money order, rather than a cheque or credit card. The reason is simple – cash is untraceable and can’t be cancelled. Crooks (obviously) have difficulty in establishing themselves as merchants with legitimate credit card companies.
5. The caller is more excited than are you – oh joy, oh rapture!
The crooks want to get you very excited about this “opportunity” so you won’t think clearly. Lottery, “free” vacation, stock tip – the gimmick doesn’t matter. Act in haste, repent at leisure!
6. The manager is calling – don’t we wish.
The person claims to be a government official, tax officer, banking official, lawyer or some other person in authority. The person calls you by your first name and asks you a lot of personal or lifestyle questions (such as “how often do your grown children visit you”). They are trying to get enough information to steal your identity or have another crook try to scam you as a parent/grandparent.
7. The stranger calling wants to become your best friend – so you need more?
Criminals love finding out if you’re lonely and willing to talk. Once they know that, they’ll try to convince you that they are your friend – after all, we don’t normally suspect our friends of being crooks. Hang up and ignore them – HONEST people don’t try to become best friends over the phone or internet or in chat rooms or dating sites.
8. It’s a limited opportunity and you’re going to miss out – good, miss out.
If you are pressured to make a big purchase decision immediately, it’s probably not legitimate. Real businesses or charities will give you a chance to check them out or think about it.

What can you do to protect yourself?
Remember, legitimate telemarketers have nothing to hide, however….
• criminals will say anything to part you from your hard-earned money.
• be cautious. You have the right to check out any caller by requesting written
information, a call back number, references and time to think over the offer. Legitimate business people will be happy to provide you with that information. They want the “bad guys” out of business too. Always be careful about providing confidential personal information, especially banking or credit card details, unless you are certain the company is legitimate. And, if you have doubts about a caller, your best defence is to simply hang up. It’s not rude – it’s smart.

If you’re in doubt, it’s wise to ask the advice of a close friend or relative or contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, local law enforcement or the Better Business Bureau. Rely on people you can trust. Remember, you can Stop Phone Fraud – Just Hang Up!

What if I suspect that a relative or friend is being targeted by unscrupulous telemarketers?
Watch for any of these warning signs:
• a marked increase in the amount of mail with too-good-to-be-true offers;
• frequent calls offering get-rich-quick schemes or valuable awards or numerous calls for
donations to unfamiliar charities;
• a sudden inability to pay normal bills;
• requests for loans or cash;
• banking records that show cheques or withdrawals made to unfamiliar companies; or
• secretive behaviour regarding phone calls.

If you suspect that someone you know has fallen prey to a deceptive telemarketer, don’t criticize them for being naïve. Encourage that person to share their concerns with you about unsolicited calls or any new business or charitable dealings. Assure them that it is not rude to hang up on suspicious calls. Keep in mind that criminal telemarketers are relentless in hounding people – some victims report receiving 5 or more calls a day, wearing down their resistance. And once a person has succumbed to this ruthless fraud, their name and number will likely go on a “sucker list”, which is sold from one crook to another.

Also, make sure the details are reported to local law enforcement, the Better Business Bureau and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In addition, add your phone numbers (including your cell and fax) to the Do Not Call List – at www.dncl.gc.ca. It isn’t perfect but it does help.

Internet and E-mail Safety (and security)

In this blog, let’s look more closely at internet and e-mail scams and security.

Knowledge is power – and never truer than when surfing the net. The most common risks are viruses, key-stroke recordings, miscellaneous malware and Trojan horses.

Viruses do the same thing to your computer as they do to us – they make it sick; they can even kill it. Key-stroke recording software is installed by hackers and allows them to record all of your keystrokes with particular attention to usernames and passwords – they love banking, credit card and email access the most. Malware is also malicious as it can take many forms: from tracking your internet use patterns to copying files to a remote computer to erasing key pieces of software. Trojan horses get uploaded and then sit in wait – silently for a triggering date or event and then allow the hackers to take control of your computer and use it for attacking other computers.

The only 100% protection against these threats is don’t surf the net! Now let’s get into reality – hardware and/or software firewalls together with anti-virus and anti-malware software.

Hardware firewalls are called routers and they act as a first line of defence between the internet and your computer and are relatively inexpensive to acquire and are not very complicated to install. Software firewalls are generally a second layer of protection after the hardware firewall. Most reputable commercial ISPs (Internet Service Providers) provide this as part of their customer offering and may reside either on their servers or on your computer.

Anti-virus and anti-malware software is sold by several companies (Norton, AVG, Kasperski, F-secure and MalwareBytes to name but a few). Most suppliers offer free versions of their protection suites but remember if it is free, there is a reason! They are in business to make money and the free versions are teasers only. They do help of course, but don’t provide complete protection, so beware of freebies! Running “in the background” on your computer, they analyse every attempt at both inbound and outbound communication over the internet for suspicious software code and either block or delete access to outsiders. You can control all of these functions through a “control panel” that is installed with this software.

Be very selective on the websites that you visit. Some categories are higher risk for spreading these problems than others – dating sites, erotic picture and video sites together social media are the greatest sources of problems – avoid them!

Rule No. 1 – if you don’t know the sender or you didn’t sign up for any e-mail notifications from stores or websites, DON’T OPEN IT! The “Nigeria” scams and grandchild scams are run constantly on e-mail as are Lottery scams of various types.
Rule No. 2 – see Rule No. 1.
Rule No. 3 – ensure you have a full-version of both anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your computer that gets automatic signature updates – preferably daily – to stop evolving threats. If you follow these 3 rules, you are going to be safe 98% of the time.

The final 2% is chain-mail – the electronic version of old chain-letters – if you get one, regardless of the identity of the sender, do not forward it – even if it is from a close relative or friend – don’t!

A great reference book on scams is from the Competition Bureau of Canada – The Little Black Book of Scams – click here to get there immediately. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a website that is all about various scams and identity theft. Click here – Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre Home Page.