A while ago, our Walnut Creek investment office received an email from a client who wanted to know their account balance and requested a large money wire transfer to a third party. At first glance, this appeared like a normal request, did it not? Well, having had a long-term investment advisory relationship with this client, we immediately noticed three red flags: 1) in the past, this client only talked about account activity over the phone, not email, 2) the wire transfer request was going to an unfamiliar destination, and 3) we knew the client closely monitored their investment account and would have already known its balance. As a result, we immediately contacted the client about the suspicious request and discovered that, indeed, it was an attempted theft. Thankfully, due to our close relationship with our client, the scammer was immediately blocked access. The moral of the story: cybercrime is a dramatically growing threat to us all and together we can follow some basic guidelines to protect ourselves from cybercriminals.
Three Key Points
As your trusted investment advisor, we take your security against cyber threats seriously. This post addresses three important issues:
- What you should know about cyberfraud and cybercrime
- Steps you can take to protect yourself from fraudulent financial activity
- Pro-active steps Pring Turner is taking to better secure your financial accounts
What You Should Know About Cyber Crime
The most important thing for you to know about cybercrime are the basic tactics that fraudsters use. If you know what to look out for then you are much less likely to be taken advantage of. Currently, criminals rely heavily on email and phone scams to gather sensitive information and will use that to access your financial assets. Fraudsters also gather information by physically stealing mail (i.e. monthly statements) or accessing sensitive documents (i.e. tax documents) online via personal emails. Once thieves have the information they want, they will email or call your financial advisor to request for money transfers (generally to a third party). Essentially, anytime your sensitive information is sent or received via an unsecure method, cybercriminals are given an opportunity to move.
4 Steps to Protect Yourself
Rest assured, there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from fraudulent activity. The next four steps can have a big impact on your personal and financial security.
Step 1 – Update Passwords: To better prevent email hacking, you can change your online passwords at least twice a year. We recommend choosing passwords that contain not only dictionary words but include symbols, numbers and capitalized letters. Instead of using the word happy, use H@ppy.
Step 2 – Sign Up For Online Statements: To reduce physical identity theft, you can sign up to receive your financial statements online that go directly to your email. Again, updating your passwords regularly is an easy way to thwart online/email identity theft.
Step 3 – Sign Up For Two-Step Verification: Another way to protect your financial information is through a two-step login authentication process, which everyone in our Walnut Creek, CA office uses. Each time you log on to Charles Schwab, you must provide a password and then a randomly generated security code (sent to your phone). This two-step approach ensures that unwanted third parties cannot gain access to your sensitive information. If you are interested in this added security feature, please contact our operations manager in Walnut Creek, Pamela Ross.
Step 4 – Never Email Sensitive Information: When contacting your investment advisor, attorney, agent, accountant, and other financial professional via email, please do not reference any sensitive information, especially your investment account and social security numbers.
What Your Financial Advisor Does to Better Secure Your Investment Accounts
As your investment advisor we are dedicated to protecting your private information and monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity. If any suspicious activity occurs, our first step is to contact you to resolve the issue. We then work closely with Charles Schwab’s Identity Protection Services, which offers a valuable service if your information or identity has been compromised. Should you have questions regarding this update or about your security, we welcome you to call us at our Walnut Creek office or contact us by email.
We have long proclaimed that Wall Street is designed to separate you from your money and Pring Turner is designed to separate you from Wall Street. Now we can add that Pring Turner is also designed to help separate you from cybercriminals and fraudsters!
DISCLOSURES: Pring Turner is an investment advisor in Walnut Creek, CA registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The views represented herein are the investment advisor’s own and all information is obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable. This information should not be considered a solicitation or offer to provide any service in any jurisdiction where it would be unlawful to do so. Past performance does not guarantee future results.