The Foreign Service Journal, October 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | OCTOBER 2023 61 RETIREE VP VOICE | BY JOHN K. NALAND AFSA NEWS Contact: Safeguard Your Finances So far this year, two dozen Foreign Service retirees have had one of their monthly pension payments maliciously diverted to another bank. While that is a tiny fraction of the nearly 16,000 Foreign Service annuitants, and the Department of State reimbursed the stolen funds, it is still obviously a major cause for concern. These thefts are currently under investigation by federal authorities, but it appears that they originated with the hacking of the retiree’s personal email account—not via any vulnerability within the Department of State or in the government’s Annuitant Employee Express platform that holds the annuitant’s direct deposit information. This is an uncomfortably close-to-home example of the threat posed to our personal finances by the ever-proliferating number and ingenuity of financial scams. To ensure the integrity of your financial dealings, educate yourself and family members about scams and cyberthreats. Many financial institutions, retail companies, and government agencies publish guidance on how to avoid becoming a victim. For example, on the State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) website, click on Services and then Learning Hub, and then select the category Security in the filter menu. On the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site, click on Advice and Guidance. Top tips are to use caution when opening emails, clicking on internet links, and answering telephone calls. Instead of clicking on links in emails or texts that purport to be from a company with which you do business, conduct your own internet search for that company’s website address, and then contact them at the telephone number or email address listed there. Regarding telephone calls, scammers can change the phone number displayed on your caller ID, so if you have any doubt that the caller is who they claim to be, hang up and contact the company directly at a telephone number or email address listed on the company’s website. Common signs of scams in emails, texts, and phone calls are the person saying that there is a problem with one of your accounts or that you have won a prize, then pressuring you to act immediately by paying in an unusual way. To avoid being scammed, do not give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you did not expect, resist pressure to act immediately, and stop before you act to talk with someone you trust, like a family member or neighbor, who may help you identify it as a scam before it is too late. n 2024 AFSA Directory of Retired Members Update Your Information! AFSA’s annual retiree directory (in print and online) offers one of the best ways to stay in touch with your Foreign Service colleagues after they leave the Service. Help us ensure that the 2024 directory is complete and up to date by sharing any new contact information with us—including physical address, telephone, and email address. If you have moved or changed any of your contact information in the last year, please email us at member@ If you have not, there is no need to act. The deadline for all Another Clean Audit for AFSA changes for the 2024 Retiree Directory is Nov. 3, 2023. Please note that if you have previously requested your name not be included in the directory, we have that information recorded and will ensure that it is not. Let us know if you prefer not to receive a copy in print and access it online instead. If you have previously told us that you do not wish to receive a print copy, we have that information recorded, as well. For new requests, please email AFSA at member@ n The American Foreign Service Association has yet again received the highest possible commendation in its annual audit: a clean, unmodified opinion. This marks 14 consecutive years in which the association has been awarded this audit result. It is important to note that AFSA voluntarily undergoes an audit each year; there is no requirement to do so in the bylaws. The accounting firm Gross Mendelsohn found no deficiencies in AFSA’s 2022 financial reporting and financial operations. The AFSA Governing Board received the official report at its August board meeting. Said AFSA Executive Director Ásgeir Sigfússon: “We are proud of this achievement. AFSA members should expect spotless internal governance and adherence to the highest accounting standards from their association. We are very pleased to be able to provide the reassurance that our members’ dues are being responsibly cared for. “It is especially meaningful this year, as we have a new auditing partner in Gross Mendelsohn. An initial audit such as this is especially thorough, so passing this test is really meaningful.” n