Are Your Investments Cybersecure?
Cybersecurity is a top priority for Adviser Investments. While we are constantly monitoring new trends to stay ahead of online criminals, cyberfraud is always evolving. Keeping personal financial information safe from scammers and thieves is paramount for today’s investors, especially as more of our sensitive information can be found online and connected devices have become commonplace.
There are a number of preventative measures to minimize the sensitive content in your email account. A first step is to avoid saving any email (sent messages as well) containing detailed financial information beyond the time it’s needed. This is especially true for account numbers and any documents with your signature.
You should also be vigilant and on the lookout for suspicious emails. For example, if the message has a strange address in the “from” field, has spelling errors or odd text, tells you that you need to update your account information, or talks about an emergency that requires you to send money immediately, it should raise a red flag.
These “phishing” emails will usually have a hyperlink or attachment for you to click. If you are at all concerned by the contents of the email, you may want to hold off on clicking it until you can verify that it’s safe; this is a very common way for your account and computer to be compromised. (There is software you can purchase or download for free that will scan your email for harmful content to help prevent this from happening to you.)
Precautions Your Adviser Should Take
If you’re working with an investment adviser or broker who has access to your accounts, you may want to ask them what they are doing to protect you. For example, what would they do if they got an email purportedly from you asking them to send $10,000 to an address, account or recipient you’d never requested before? Hopefully this is something they’ve considered and have implemented policies to deal with suspected fraud or identity theft.
A warning bell should sound if your adviser or broker is sending you emails that include personally identifying information such as your Social Security number. You should instruct your financial adviser and every professional you work with to never send potentially compromising personal information via email unless it has been secured.
Safeguarding Financial Accounts
There are a number of steps we urge clients to take when it comes to monitoring suspicious activity on their accounts. We suggest reviewing all credit card and financial statements as soon as they arrive or become available online. If you uncover something that raises concern, immediately contact the financial institution where the account is held, preferably by phone. It’s a good idea to never send account or personally identifiable information over email, chat or any other unsecure channel.
We also recommend that you try to avoid developing any online patterns of money movement, such as regular wire transfers that cybercriminals could replicate to make fraudulent requests appear legitimate.
Finally, it’s important that you never access your online financial accounts from publicly accessible networks like libraries, coffee shops, airplanes or hotel rooms. Cybercriminals can hack into public networks to capture your keystrokes and the passwords they contain. (Whenever possible, we suggest considering whether the convenience factor would outweigh the risk you take where your private information is concerned.) Likewise, make sure your home wireless network is password protected to prevent people from gaining access to your devices remotely.
Common Scams to Avoid
SCAMMERS ARE MORE SOPHISTICATED THEN EVER and are increasingly targeting senior citizens by phone, email, text, through social media or in-person. Some common financial ruses include:
- COVID-19 SCHEMES: Fraudsters will promise COVID-19 testing, vaccinations or relief grants in a bid to gather your personal information. They may also ask you to pay bogus processing fees to access nonexistent grants or Medicare prescription cards.
- THE PIGEON DROP: A large sum of money is promised in exchange for a “good faith” payment withdrawn from an individual’s bank account. Con artists will often employ an accomplice posing as a lawyer, banker or other seemingly trustworthy third party.
- THE FAKE ACCIDENT: The con artist asks for a wire transfer or check to pay for a relative’s urgent medical care or bail after being arrested. This can be particularly convincing if the scammer has done his homework and researched the names of family members via social media.
- CHARITY SCAMS: Money is solicited over the telephone or through text or email for bogus charities.
- IRS IMPERSONATOR: In this scenario, someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls to inform you that there is a problem with your tax return or that you owe taxes, and will threaten legal consequences to convince you to make an immediate payment. (An alternate version of this scam will have them claiming you are owed a big refund to lure you into sharing personal information.) The IRS will never call you if they haven’t first mailed a bill, and they will never demand immediate payment without allowing you to question or appeal what you owe. They will also never ask for a credit card number over the phone.
- RANSOMWARE: A fraudster posing as a Microsoft or Apple employee calls to alert you that there’s a problem with your software. The bogus technician then asks you to log in to your computer and grant him or her access so that they can fix the problem. Then, the scammer locks access to your computer, “kidnapping” it and your data until you pay a ransom.
Social Media Safety
Personal information about you and your loved ones provides powerful ammunition for scammers to catch you off guard and earn your trust. There’s no complete protection short of never going online, but there are some steps you can take to minimize risks.
One critical precaution: Never post your Social Security number (even the last four digits). And consider keeping your birthdate, home address and home phone number confidential. We also encourage clients to refrain from posting announcements about impending vacations, births, children’s birthdays or the loss of a loved one. Never underestimate the lengths cybercriminals will take to learn critical facts about you.
Be Safe Out There
At Adviser Investments, we have security measures in place to prevent any unauthorized access to our clients’ accounts. We’ve worked closely with our account custodians to set up procedures for wiring and transferring money, which greatly limits the potential for fraud. We also follow up any suspicious communications, confirm any unusual requests and always adhere to the instructions clients have given us for handling their accounts. Our team has been trained to know what to look out for, and on several occasions we have been able to inform a client that their email account was compromised and prevented fraudulent activity. In serious cases, we can also put temporary holds on accounts as a further layer of protection.
The ramifications of having your investment or bank accounts hacked are unnerving, but it is important to protect yourself and to make sure that the people you’ve hired to manage your money are doing their utmost as well. The investing peace of mind we provide our clients comes not only from how we manage their money but also how we strive to safeguard their accounts and personal information.
Please feel free to give us a call at (800) 492-6868 if you’d like to learn more about Adviser Investments’ services and safeguards.
This material is distributed for informational purposes only and is general in nature. It has been obtained from what we believe to be reliable sources; however, the accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. It should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult an attorney for legal advice.
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