There is more than one way to lose money. Sure, it is easy to get caught up in the market volatility, especially following recent market losses and Russia’s unexpected and precarious invasion of Ukraine. But in an increasingly digital world, the breadth of opportunities for theft and fraud in cyberspace means that cyber crime is on the rise.
We are so used to thinking about money loss through the lens of overspending or unlucky investment decisions. Any stock market investor can attest to the gut wrenching losses that can occur in the short term. And with money that is invested for the long term, sometimes it is best to just look away during times of high volatility. As of the writing of this post on March 31, 2022, the global stock market has lost 5.15%¹ since the beginning of the year.
Market losses are inevitable at some point, but cyber fraud and theft does not have to be. With online scams and data breaches becoming more commonplace, it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect your money. Putting the right precautions in place today can go a long way towards protecting your assets and securing your financial future.
There Is More than One Way to Lose Money
Being a victim of online fraud, cyber crime or identity theft can be emotionally and financially devastating. That’s why knowing how to protect yourself and your money online is critical as we grow increasingly digitally connected and dependent.
The harm from identity theft has been well-documented. If you’ve ever experienced it yourself, you know how stressful it can be to repair the damage and recover from the outfall. That’s why prevention really is far better than cure when it comes to this issue. If you are a victim of this crime, it can be extremely hard to resolve.
What Cyber Crime Can Really Look Like
Here are a few actual fraudulent acts and attempts that have happened to some of my clients:
- One client had ~$10,000 stolen from her bank account and withdrawn to Binance and other cryptocurrency holders.
- I received an email that appeared to be from my client’s email address requesting $50,000 be wired to a construction company for home renovations. When I called my client to confirm, he told me what I suspected – he had never sent the email.
- I received an email from a client also requesting a wire to a third party. She confirmed that she had never sent the email. Even worse, we looked at her Gmail filters because she said that she hadn’t been getting emails from the firm. In the filters, a scammer had directed all emails from our firm to trash. She wasn’t able to see any communication from our firm about requests and account updates.
How to Protect Your Money from Cyber Crime
When it comes to investing, the stakes are clearer, and knowing how to protect and grow your wealth has a narrower field of options. I encourage my clients to stay disciplined and focused on their goals while making sure that they are properly mitigating risks for their personal circumstances.
But when it comes to the myriad ways the internet can put our money at risk, there is a long list of things to do to ensure you safeguard your identity and your wealth as best you can as our digital world expands.
You have probably heard these suggestions often and from different sources, but which ones have you actually implemented? If you have older parents or family members, be sure to help them set up some of these safeguards, and warn them of the dangers of trusting online sources. They are particularly vulnerable to cyber theft.
Practical Advice to Help Safeguard Your Assets
- Review your accounts regularly to catch any suspicious activity. Keep accounts simple and consolidate accounts where possible so that there are fewer to monitor.
- PASSWORDS! Do not re-use passwords, and strongly consider a password manager like Dashlane or Lastpass. The managers take a little time to set up, but they are easy to manage going forward and generate very strong passwords that you do not have to remember.
- Freeze your credit at each of the three credit bureaus – Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Freezing your credit blocks access to your credit report and would prevent someone from opening a credit account on your record. You can easily lift the freeze temporarily if you need to apply for a loan.
- Enable two-factor authentication on every account for which it is available. Many institutions are doing this and will send you a text message code or ask for a code from an app as a second layer of protection.
- Take an extra look before opening an attachment or clicking on a link in an email that might be an attempt at phishing.
- Do not connect to public, unprotected Wifi networks.
- Check your credit report periodically to make sure that all of the information reported is actually related to you.
- Run software updates on your phone, tablets, and computers regularly to install security patches.
- Do not reply to unsolicited calls or requests for personal information like your social security number, date of birth, bank account number, etc.
- Install virus scanning software on your computer and have it scanned regularly for malware and viruses.
How to Take Action If You Suspect Cyber or Identity Theft
What do you do if you suspect that you have been a victim of cyber or identity theft?
- Notify financial institutions about the suspected or actual fraud.
- Change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication.
- Notify the three credit bureaus.
- Obtain a Recovery Plan from the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov.
- Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to contact your local police, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at the FBI.
- Your homeowners or renters insurance policy may offer some identity theft protection.
Secure Your Financial Future
At Abeona, we work closely with our clients to ensure they have the right systems in place to protect their personal information online and keep their financial assets secure. The suggestions included here will help give you a good head start at protecting yourself and your family members from cyber crime.
While the risks cannot be fully mitigated, you can make it difficult enough that the criminal will move on to the next unsuspecting victim if you put enough roadblocks in their path. And if we can help you take steps towards securing your financial future, please contact us. We’d be happy to hear from you.
¹MSCI World Index, net div. As of March 31, 2022.