Many years ago, I received a $30,000 tax bill from the state. I was a freshman in college and the world wide web had yet to be launched for public use. After several long calls to the state, it was determined that my social security number had been compromised. Fortunately, I was not held responsible for the debt. Today, protecting your financial assets is a daily struggle. The unsurmountable increase in crime, data hacking and fraud pose greater than ever threats to compromising our finances and security.
There are ways to protect yourself to reduce the chance of compromise:
Check your accounts regularly. Most financial institutions provide email and text alerts that you can customize.
Freeze your credit. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax provide online credit freeze options free of charge. You may unfreeze it any time for a day, week, month, etc. This is a great planning tool as well; if your credit is frozen, it takes an extra step to sign up for an enticing credit card offer from your favorite retailer that you may not really need.
Monitor your credit score. If your score deviates substantially for unknown reasons, investigate immediately. You are entitled to one free report per year from each of the three credit reporting agencies mentioned above. Free copies may be ordered online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling (877) 322.8228.
Set up two-factor authentication for all your accounts.
Shred all nonpublic information. Keep your anti-virus software up to date. Change your passwords frequently. Although it’s a burden to have a different password for every account, it’s important. There are many password managers available to help navigate. Some have free versions that may be sufficient for your needs.
Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access sensitive data. Consider obtaining a VPN—Virtual Private Network. Free and subscription services are available.
Notify your investment account institutions if your personal information has been compromised. They will note your accounts and require additional information for transactions. Don’t forget your 401k provider as well. If your information has been hacked, one could impersonate you and request a taxable withdrawal or rollover into a pseudo account.
Many scams prey on senior citizens through scare tactics and threats. Contact authorities of any suspicious requests. Don’t provide personal information to anyone who calls you. Many thieves will impersonate the IRS, your bank, credit card company or local church—just to mention a few.
It’s impossible to eliminate all potential threats, however, if you stay diligent in your practices, you may escape being a victim of fraud.
Michele Sarna is a certified financial planner™ with Beacon Pointe Advisors and can be reached at (760) 932.0930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: 1) https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze; 2) https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html; 3) https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/; 4) https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report.
Provided as information only and should not be considered investment, tax, or legal advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any type of investments. Asset Allocation, portfolio diversification, and risk strategies cannot assure or guarantee better performance and cannot eliminate the risk of investment losses. Form ADV contains important information about Beacon Pointe Advisors, LLC, and may be viewed at: adviserinfo.sec.gov.