Published On: March 8, 2019
Written by: Ben Atwater and Matt Malick
As holistic financial planners, it’s our job to sometimes look beyond investments and retirement plans and focus on other important financial issues.
Unfortunately, in addition to concerns about saving enough and investing appropriately, today’s investors also need to worry about cyber fraud. As our lives are more interlinked with online devices, our information is susceptible to fraudsters. With each passing day, cyberattacks are increasing in frequency and sophistication.
We’ve seen and heard some elaborate stories about the lengths to which sophisticated thieves will go in order to steal your identity and your money. Rather than frighten you with horror stories, we are instead offering you some basic tips. We encourage all clients to take the threat of cyber-attacks seriously.
Six Ways to Help Protect Yourself Against Cyber Fraud:
1. Manage your devices: Be sure to have the most recent version of all software (for example Apple IOS, Microsoft Windows) up-to-date on mobile devices and computers. Do not run old versions that lack the latest security patches. Set your devices to automatically upload software updates. Additionally, be sure to run antivirus software on your computer and devices and be sure that software is set to regularly and automatically scan.
2. Protect all passwords: Reset your passwords quarterly. Do not use the same password for any two sites or applications. Make sure your passwords are random and unique, no birthdays, children’s names, addresses, etc. Do not store your passwords in an email folder. It’s best to store them in a locked file or in password protection software.
3. Surf the web safely: Stay away from questionable websites. Do not use public internet connections in hotels, cafes, etc. Instead of using public Wi-Fi, turn off your Wi-Fi and use your data plan (including using your wireless hotspot). If you are using public internet, don’t enter passwords or conduct sensitive business.
4. Protect information on social media: Be cautious about the nature of information you disclose on social media. With time and effort, scammers can use your public social media accounts to reconstruct your identity and commit fraud even more easily.
5. Protect your email account: NEVER use the same password for your email that you use for anything else. Change your email password frequently. Our anecdotal experience suggests that Internet service providers like Verizon (which includes AOL and Yahoo!) and Comcast don’t offer the level of security that the likes of Google and Apple offer. Again, purely based on our experience, Yahoo! is most vulnerable. Finally, be wary of every email you receive. Scammers are increasingly assuming the identities of the companies you work with and the people you know and luring you into unsuspecting email traps including disclosing information and opening a fraudulent link or document.
6. Safeguard your financial accounts: Consider acquiring a credit monitoring service and / or an identity theft protection service. Set-up alerts on your bank, credit card and investment accounts, so you know immediately when a transaction occurs in your accounts. At the very least, review your account transactions in detail each month to be sure someone isn’t using your accounts improperly. Thieves are getting more disciplined and are willing to skim small amounts of money over long periods of time from accounts. A final general tip – Social Security, the IRS, Fidelity, your bank, etc. will never call you and solicit information. If anyone is calling or emailing you, be skeptical.
Following these precautions will not guarantee success. Criminals can compromise anyone. As always, please call us with any questions.