By Deka Wiebusch
For the Bellingham Business Journal
Your retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other investments need special care in the internet age. The amount stolen from Americans in the wake of recent identity breaches was a staggering $16 billion last year, according to the Insurance Information Institute .
Most companies will allow you to view your balances online — a great convenience saving you time and energy. However, with this kind of access comes some special responsibilities. Today, you are playing the most significant role in keeping your money secrets safe.
One simple way to protect your accounts is by adding two-factor identification to your logon process. Two factor identification makes it tough for a thief to hack into your account and most thieves will move on to lower hanging fruit, i.e. someone easier to steal from than you. Two-factor identification simply means when you log into your account with your username and password there is an extra step, usually fetching a code sent to your phone that you enter after your password. This one extra step is worth the trouble when you balance it against the hassles that come with a criminal having access to your money.
Do you have an old computer or other device that you use to view your account? Maybe older than two years? Microsoft has openly communicated that Windows XP is no longer receiving security updates, and Windows 7 will stop getting security updates in January 2020. I have had a client tell me that they feel if the computer seems to work fine, why not keep using it? Let’s stop and think this over. Somewhere on your computer is probably your date of birth, your full legal name, your address and perhaps your social security number.
If you do something as simple as check email and click on a seemingly harmless link, you can open all that information up to a thief. If you are not comfortable making these security-based decisions about your computer, make sure you use a good computer security consultant that can work with you. I work closely with our security consultant and in turn we benefit our clients by being knowledgeable about this issue. It’s in your best interest that your financial advisor be knowledgeable about cyber security.
Some financial institutions work to give a lot of unneeded features, such as the online ability to open a funds link to an outside bank or bill pay. This feature, if you do not need it, should be turned off. If a criminal has gotten into your account and computer, they can open a fake account at an outside bank made possible by all the information on your computer. That is when the trouble starts.
With the massive 2017 security breach at Equifax, reported to have affected 143 million Americans, you may want to consider locking down access to your credit. This service is now free. For anyone who uses credit sparingly, a credit freeze might make sense for you.
The Federal Trade Commission has more information about this at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
Deka Wiebusch CRPC® AIF® is a financial advisor at Skyline Advisors, a locally owned and operated Registered Investment Advisor providing money management and financial planning services. Skyline Advisors is located at 405 32nd St., Ste 201 in Bellingham and at www.myskylineadvisor.com Deka can be reached at (360) 671–1621 or at firstname.lastname@example.org This article is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Skyline Advisors and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Skyline Advisors unless a client service agreement is in place.