Financial Literacy Combats Rise of Fake News in the Money World
By Jeanne Doran
June 21, 2017
We live in an age of fake news that leaves many unsure of what they see and hear in the media, on websites, and even in personal email. It’s not just politics. Misinformation plagues the money world and can have dire consequences on retirement planning, investments, healthcare and more.
Six in 10 adults believe fake news is a serious threat to their ability to make sound money decisions, according to a survey from the American Institute of CPAs. A third classified the threat as “very serious.” Some 77% feel rushed into financial decisions and 40% believe it is very important to react quickly to financial news.
This adds up to a financial literacy powder keg: consumers feel overwhelmed by misinformation and yet compelled to respond to events quickly. The result is often snap decisions on bad information.
“Having accurate, reliable financial information is the basis for deliberate and rational decision-making,” Greg Anton, chair of the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said in a statement. “There is a fine line between reacting and overreacting, and Americans should proceed cautiously until they’re able to parse the facts.”
Because of fake news, Americans say they are having a harder time with healthcare decisions (44%), investing in the stock market (40%), retiring (36%) and buying or selling a house (35%). Another 35% report having trouble deciding if they should start a business and 29% say it is harder to decide on a new job.
Bad financial information may come as sponsored content or an imposter website. Ever received an email you believed was from your bank because of the familiar logo only to realize it was a sneaky way to lure information from you? That’s part of the misinformation landslide.
The good news is that people are growing more aware of the scourge of fake news in all aspects of life. About half in the AICPA survey believe fake news is going to increase in the next year or two; only 14% expect it to decrease.
This should put them on guard—and eager to learn how to ferret out the real story. It argues strongly for support of financial literacy programs in school and at work. The AICPA suggests these steps to protect yourself from fake financial news:
Research investments Don’t jump or respond immediately to market news.
Be suspicious of outrageous claims and incorrect grammar Check the source if something seems off. Google the author. Unnamed sources may be a tip-off that a story is fake.
Beware fake websites Fake financial articles published on look-alike websites appear to be legitimate but are designed to mislead.
Scrutinize sponsored content and advertorials These articles are often designed to look like reported content to sell products, but usually aren’t produced by legitimate news organizations.
Don’t fall for a prank Fake money news can sometimes be hard to tell apart from humor or satire.