Keeping Our Clients Cyber Safe
When you hear the word “cybersecurity”, you may think that it is only a concern for large tech companies on a quest to protect user data. And when it comes to protecting your money, you probably find yourself more consumed with the issue of inflation than with the issues of fraud and identity theft. After all, inflation spares no one and fraud feels like a far-fetched improbability. But the reality is, as more jobs, services, and products move online, the risks of being caught in the crosshairs of a financial scam are increasing, and we at Radix Financial want to make sure you, your family, and your money are protected on all fronts.
Earlier this year, Netflix released the chart-topping documentary, The Tinder Swindler, which sheds light on just how difficult it can be to spot warning signs of a scam in progress. The documentary reveals how three women were defrauded hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively by Simon Leviev after meeting him on the Tinder dating app. As was shown in the film, fraud attempts can incorporate complex layers of social, emotional, and romantic scheming, making relational fraud one of the most difficult to detect and prevent. Once a relationship is established, the most common way to execute the scam is by creating a story about a financial emergency that requires access to immediate funds. Due to the established feelings of trust, the victim provides funds for the emergency and the scammer makes off with the money.
Protecting yourself from relational fraud can include the following precautions:
- Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person,
- Perform an image search of people you meet online to determine whether they are really the person they claim to be, and
- Never share personal information such as your social security number, account numbers, or important documents.
However, sometimes relational fraud doesn’t involve a stranger on the internet. One of the most common forms of relational fraud is between family members or caretakers with aging adults. The National Council on Aging estimates that the annual loss by older Americans because of financial abuse is at least $36.5 billion (www.ncoa.org). Similar to the tactics used by online imposters with their victims, financial abuse with aging adults typically involves a family member or caretaker creating a fake financial emergency, preying on the sympathy of the victim to provide funds. Unsuspecting parents or grandparents turn over account information and suffer major financial consequences, sometimes unknowingly.
Unfortunately, older adults also tend to be vulnerable to phone-based fraud, particularly scams posing issues related to tax returns, social security benefits, or Medicare, as these financial programs are often on the forefront of minds for this demographic. To better protect your aging loved ones, remain aware of the major warning signs associated with financial abuse and fraud within this population. These signs may include unpaid bills or missing payments, sudden changes in spending patterns or large withdrawals on accounts, or excessive paper mailings related to giveaways or sweepstakes.
At Radix Financial, it remains a high priority for us to do our part in protecting clients with best practices in cybersecurity and fraud prevention. This includes verifying directly with clients before facilitating large transfers, utilizing multifactor authentication on company devices and account management platforms, and implementing expert recommendations for strong password creation and document encryption. If you are looking for a few extra steps you can take personally to further protect yourself from various types of fraud, here are three major tips you can easily implement today.
1. Freeze Your Credit to Prevent Identity Theft:
Identify theft occurs when someone steals your personal information, such as your social security number, bank account information, or credit card number, and uses it to open new fraudulent accounts or take our loans under your identity. When you put a freeze on your credit through each of the three credit bureaus, it restricts access to your credit file, making it more difficult for scammers to open fraudulent accounts in your name. You can freeze your credit easily by using an online tool on each of the three credit bureau websites. Each entity also has a process available for freezing the credit file of minor children—yes, even if they do not yet have a credit record—to prevent identity theft within this unsuspecting age group. Just remember to unfreeze your (or your children’s) credit temporarily any time you want to open a legitimate account or apply for a credit card or loan.
Experian - https://www.experian.com/freeze
TransUnion - https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
2. Create A Few Different Password Phrases:
If you are still using that same single-word password you’ve had since high school, it’s time to start changing things up. Experts recommend rotating between a handful of different complex passwords rather than always using the same one. Understandably, this can be problematic when it comes to remembering your login credentials. The best way to create a memorable password which also accomplishes a high level of security is to use phrase-based passwords. For example, a random phrase like “RetireEARLY4Good!” checks the boxes for length and complexity but is easy to remember. Creating 3 or 4 password phrases you can use across various accounts can significantly decrease your risk of password hacking.
3. Enhance Security with a Password Manager
Doubting your ability to keep your passwords straight, even when using the password phrase strategy? Rather than keeping an insecure list of usernames and passwords saved to your desktop, consider utilizing a password manager like LastPass, 1Password, or KeePass to store your various login credentials. Keeping your passwords stored with a password management system allows for proper layers of encryption and security so that hackers cannot access your passwords, and so you do not have to remember everything on your own. Many of these services also integrate as Google plugins so you can easily access your passwords or autofill login credentials on any website with the click of a button.
Whether it’s implementing these tips or watching for warning signs of relational fraud, you can proactively protect yourself, your family, and your wealth from the risks associated with an online life. And if your concern for protecting your money from identity theft and fraud still pales in comparison to your concern about protecting your money from inflation, then we at Radix Financial can certainly help you with that too :) We’re only a call or email away.
Kristin Short, PhD
Financial Planner & Associate Investment Advisor