According to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” While he certainly didn’t know about the many benefits and pitfalls the internet would bring with regard to the security of personal information, Dickens aptly describes a modern day plight for today’s investors. If managed correctly, you can get the best of both worlds; easy access to your information with the peace-of-mind you deserve.
As an investment advisor who tends to work with near-retired or currently-retired clients, the concerns expressed to me regarding the online security of financial information is ever present. And it’s a growing problem that’s rightfully caught the attention of my industry’s regulators.
However, developing and maintaining the security of clients’ personal information requires a true partnership between both the client and the professional. In the absence of clients following sound online habits, like most things in life, there’s a weak link in the chain.
In addition to communicating with your professional advisors about their internal cybersecurity policies designed to reasonably protect your information and your money, here are a few things that you can do to help.
First, develop safe password policies. At its most basic level, avoid using overly simplistic passwords. Naturally, the simpler it is for you to remember, the simpler it is for criminals to exploit.
In an era where all of us are juggling dozens of passwords for dozens of websites, it is also intelligent to avoid using the same password across the board, even if it’s sufficiently complex.
Instead, consider creating a single “core” password dedicated just for your financial websites. And, then simply append to your core password a unique identifier to make it one-of-a-kind. Additionally, make it a habit to change your financial passwords frequently. This will help mitigate your financial risk with the types of widespread data breaches we’ve witnessed in recent years.
Second, watch out for what’s known as email phishing scams. It’s not uncommon for unsuspecting victims to fall for fake emails linking to imposter financial institutions’ login pages. By the time they realize it, victims enter their login information online and inadvertently share it with criminals. A best practice is to never click on links to financial websites within emails. Instead, just enter their website address directly in your browser.
Finally, consider calling the various credit report companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and ask them to install a “lock” on your credit report. This feature can effectively stop identity fraudsters from opening up new credit cards in your name.
So, in the face of Dickens’ double-edged commentary, I’d argue the internet offers far too much to let worry stand in your way. Take a few precautions and enjoy the world of information literally at your fingertips.