We take considerable attention in keeping our client's information safe. In the US, where over 1.4 million were victims of identity theft in 2020, one can't be too cautious.1
Identity theft can happen in a number of ways: in-person (handing your credit card to a criminal disguised as a waitress for example), making an online purchase, clicking on a link in an email, or even on the phone. However it happens, identity theft affects a large number of people per year. Just one way we help protect our clients, here at FPS, we have incorporated a compliant friendly means for client's to pay invoices securely without sharing their credit card information with us.
Here's a few ways you can protect your identity and sensitive information online and in-person.
Tip #1: Think Your Identity Can't Get Stolen?
Even the most careful people are not immune to identity theft. According to a recent report, 47% of Americans experienced financial identity theft in 2020.2 That’s nearly half of all adults, and that only includes the cases of identity theft that were properly reported. Just last week, I was speaking with a friend whose credit card was compromised and the perpetrator used his card to purchase items on Amazon. These items were delivered to my friend's house and since they had the UPS tracking info, were able to pick the items up off his porch shortly after they were dropped off.
There is so much data in today’s world that it’s impossible to keep yourself completely safe, but by understanding the risk of fraud, you can grasp how important it is to follow these and other cybersecurity tips.
Tip #2: If you MUST conduct business when on public Wi-Fi, Use a VPN to Increase Data Protection
A virtual private network (or VPN) can help keep you safe when you’re browsing the web on Wi-Fi. A VPN is an encrypted connection between your computer and the VPN server, meaning that all your internet usage is routed through this connection. Most VPN servers actually have multiple layers of encryption to help keep you and your information safe. Signing up for a VPN is easy and you can set one up on both your mobile device and your computer. Check out these comprehensive instructions from The Verge, a popular tech publication by going HERE
VPNs also mask your IP address (which indicates where you are located and provides information about your computer) and personal information.
Tip #3: Don’t Share Your Passwords or Use the Same Password for Multiple Sites
Hopefully this tip is common sense, but don’t share your passwords with others, especially people you don’t know. If you do need to share your password, use a password management site like Keeper or LastPass that allows you to share a record with someone without showing them the actual password. Or, change your password right after sharing it with someone.
In addition to not sharing your password with others, don’t use the same password for multiple sites, especially if it contains identifying information such as your address, children’s names or pet names, etc.
A strong password should be on the long side if possible, contains a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, contains numbers and symbols, has no ties to your personal information, and doesn’t contain any regular words. A good tip I use and have passed on to others is a password that is a phrase or song lyric with some characters thrown in. For example, in the Eagles "Hotel California" song, the line "Welcome to the Hotel California, such a lovely place" You can take the first letter of each word (and you sing the song in your head) so it looks like this...WtthC$@lP. I swapped out the "s" with a "$" and the "a" with the "@" symbol. Be sure to throw an uppercase or number in from time to time.
Tip #4: Sign Up for 2-Factor Authentication
In addition to creating a strong password, always sign up for two-factor authentication when possible. This may seem like a pain but well worth the extra step. Two-factor authentication (or 2FA) is an extra layer of protection for your login info. It usually requires you to sign in with your password and then use a second method to verify it’s you. For example, Google can send a unique code to your phone number or backup email address to confirm it’s really you trying to sign in.
Tip #5: Be Careful About How Much Personal Information You Share on Social Media
In today’s world of posting everything from pictures of your grandkids to what you had for lunch on social media, it’s important to be aware of what personal information you are sharing online. Hackers can easily get information from your Facebook or Instagram profile and use it to hack into your other accounts. Never share your address, phone number, photos of personal IDs (passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.) or full date of birth on social media. I also suggest posting your vacation pics AFTER you are home.
In this new world of online criminals, it’s more important than ever to protect your information and your family’s information. Staying safe online and practicing these tips will help prevent you from falling victim to increasing identity theft scams.
If you are a victim of identity theft, please reach out to us right away and we will try to help
As always, when making big financial decisions, it is always best to speak with and take the advice of a Certified Financial Planner® practitioner. Any questions, we are here to help you figure it all out.
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For more detail on protecting yourself, check out my other article on "Cybersecurity is More Crucial Than Ever. Keep These 10 Cybersecurity Tips in Mind"
All the best.
Rick Fingerman, CFP®, CDFA™, CCPS®
Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) is a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) provides this blog for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, tax, or legal advice. FPS only renders personalized advice to each client. Information herein includes opinions and source information that is believed to be reliable. However, such information may not be independently verified by FPS. Please see important disclosures link at the bottom of this page.