How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

 

Personal Security from All Angles - Fidelity 2017.

“Personal Security from
All Angles” Handout

 

 

Gary Rossi, of Fidelity Investments, making a key point during his presentation on "How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft" presentation.

Gary Rossi, Fidelity Investments, making a key point.

On August 23rd, we hosted our Premier Lecture Series Event, “How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.”  The presentation at Baltusrol was well attended and well received.  Gary Rossi, Fidelity Investment’s Head of Corporate Investigations and 14 year special agent for the FBI, spoke about some practical steps you can take to protect yourself from fraudsters.  Though “Identity Theft” is a scary topic, the Internet is something you should be able to enjoy.  Below are a few straightforward tips you can take to significantly decrease your chances of becoming a victim of Identity Theft.

Gary’s Big Three Keys

Gary provided three key recommendations to safeguard your financial information:

  1. Use multi-factor authentication when accessing your financial accounts online.
  2. Freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus.
  3. Use a dedicated device for accessing your financial institutions or information online.

Gary also discussed other areas where you can take specific actions to protect yourself:

  • When traveling, register with the State Department and let them know your travel plans so you can be contacted in case of local emergencies.
  • Consider purchasing emergency medical travel insurance.
  • Use a professional service firm to do a digital footprint analysis to see what information about you and your family is available on the public and dark web.
  • Do proper vetting of anyone who has access to your home and property.
  • Use a professional service firm to do a risk assessment of your home and property.
  • Create financial oversight on accounts for seniors to protect against “elder fraud.”

Who is “The Bad Guy” and how do they work?

Today’s cyber criminals are very smart and are financially motivated.  Their goal is to get you to click on an email attachment or website link which will then install bits of code known as malware onto your computer.  This malware allows them to record your keys strokes which they will use to steal usernames, passwords and security question answers.  By following a few simple steps, cyber criminals are more likely to move on to someone else who is an easier target.

Identity theft and its impact on Financial Planning image for family business investment advisers McRae Capital Management.

SPAM:  Cyber criminals send out huge amounts of emails hoping to get someone to click on an attachment or website link.  These e-mails will often look as if they are from trusted friends or major financial institutions that you may actually do business with.  As a precaution, it is always safer to access a website directly rather than through a link in an e-mail.

Targeting:  Cyber criminals will sometimes target high net worth individuals specifically.  The fraudsters will use digital footprints to build a dossier of information about their targets.  They will then send you an email spoofed to make it look like it came from someone you know with a link for you to click.  These sorts of emails can be very convincing as it may contain personal information about you.

Hacked Links:  Cyber criminals also hack websites and embed their malware into links on pages.  They often target the websites of small non-profits, churches, and schools who likely do not pay for robust security for their sites. 

Gary’s Big Three Keys:
1. Use multi-factor authentication when accessing your financial accounts online.
2. Freeze your credit with the three major credit bureaus.
3. Use a dedicated device for accessing your financial institutions or information online.

Multi-Factor Authentication is a way of adding a strong layer of protection when accessing a secure website.  Multi-factor authentication can take many forms, but most often a financial institution will text a temporary code that will be needed to access the site in addition to your password.  Reach out to your financial institutions to find out what tools they offer or recommend.

Freezing Your Credit with the three credit bureaus, Equifax  (https://www.equifax.com/personal/), Experian (https://www.experian.com/), and TransUnion (https://www.transunion.com/) actively prevents anyone from opening up new credit cards, loans or accounts in your name.  If a fraudster has a good enough dossier on you, they can open accounts in your name that they control.  By freezing your credit, you can prevent that from ever happening.  This course of action is suggested over paying for credit monitoring companies like LifeLock.

A Dedicated Device is a separate computer or tablet used only for accessing your financial websites.  This measure is for those who are highly concerned about identity theft.  By having a device that never opens emails, browses other websites, or clicks advertising links, you are able to greatly reduce the risk that a cyber thief will get malware on your device to steal usernames and passwords.

Though “Identity Theft” is a scary topic, the Internet is something you should be able to enjoy.  There are a few straightforward steps you can take to significantly decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

Gary’s Additional Words of Wisdom:

Passwords:  It is strongly suggested that you use completely different passwords for your financial websites than for your social media, email, or other websites.  It is also suggested that you use different passwords across your financial institutions.

Public WiFi:  Never do anything important or sensitive when logged into a public WiFi network.  Ever.  Anything financially related should be done only on a secure network you trust.

STEP:  When traveling, the US State Department has a Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (https://step.state.gov/step/ ) that allows you to register your travel plans with them.  This way, the local U.S. Embassy can send you important local alerts and reach out to you in case of an emergency.

Emergency Medical Travel Insurance provides you with someone to serve as a translator and resource in case of a medical emergency.  These services can also help you replace lost medication, guide you to the best care available in the area and in extreme emergencies, they will coordinate emergency medical transport to get you to proper care quickly.

Digital Footprint Analysis is a great way to learn what personal information is available to cyber criminals online.  There are professional investigative firms who offer this service.

Proper Vetting would involve online searches as well as more in-depth background checks on people who regularly have access to your physical property.  Be aware of who may have access to your house and property:  nannies, housekeepers, handymen, landscapers, tutors, dog-walkers, security personal, pest control services…

Securing your Home and Property:  A security professional can analyze your home and property and reveal any potentially vulnerable points.  As most physical keys can be easily duplicated, consider working with a professional locksmith to make keys that cannot be copied.

Creating Financial Oversight for Elder Family Members:  Elder abuse is a growing trend.  In some cases, the senior family member falls victim to a phone scam or some other scheme.  However, more frequently older family members are taken advantage of by those who have earned their trust.  The way to protect against this is to give multiple trusted family members oversight over financial accounts.

Resources:

Fidelity provided an excellent handout, “Personal Security from All Angles,” which contains the information discussed above, and much more.  Please feel free to download a copy and review for your benefit.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call.

 

Frank Margiotta, Peter McRae, Gary Rossi, Roddy McRae, Bill Keefe, and Rod McRae, before the "How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft" presentation.

Frank Margiotto (Fidelity), Peter McRae, Gary Rossi (Fidelity), Roddy McRae, Bill Keefe, and Rod McRae.

 

"How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft"This article originally appeared as an email to McRae Capital’s clients. If you have any questions or concerns about Identity Theft, or anything else you would like to discuss with us, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.