October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, when people and organizations learn how to reduce their cybersecurity risks and protect themselves online.
Although people are becoming smarter in the way they handle cyberattacks, cybersecurity threats remain prevalent at financial services firms. In fact, the cyber and intelligence unit of BAE Systems found that 74% of financial institutions, such as banks and insurers, have experienced a rise in cyberattacks since the pandemic began.
This is why consumers need to stay vigilant when it comes to sharing their financial information.
“The online world makes many aspects of financial planning quicker and easier,” says Felicia Gopaul, CFP®. “Unfortunately, it also opens the door to identity fraud.”
Identity fraud is any instance of using someone else’s identifying information without their permission. The most common instances of identity fraud are stealing a credit card number, insurance information, or a Social Security number to get a job or open an account.
“Older adults are often vulnerable to identity fraud by family members,” adds Gopaul.
“As you age, you are more likely to rely on friends and family to assist you with making financial planning appointments and handling your banking. This trust potentially opens you up to becoming a victim if you don’t monitor your banking and investment accounts,” she emphasizes.
When hiring a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM professional for any reason — whether to establish future goals, manage debt or enter retirement — make cybersecurity part of the conversation. Ask your CFP® professional how your financial and personal information will be protected, what security provisions are in place for transactions, and how they handle naming trusted contacts.
At home, be as conscious of cybersecurity as you would be in an office. No one wants to think ill of family or friends, but some people find it irresistible to peek if you leave bills, financial statements or financial planning documents lying around, or if you have passwords taped to the computer.
If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, whether from a friend or an unseen stranger online, take these three steps immediately:
* File a police report. Even if you suspect a friend or family member, failing to file a report will leave you liable for any expenses.
* Put a lock on your credit file. This will prevent others from applying for credit using your personal information. This strategy keeps an identity thief from continuing to take out credit using your information.
* Get professional help. If you work with a CFP® professional, tell them what has happened. They can support you in monitoring your accounts during your reviews. Whether you have experienced identity theft or not, some CFP® professionals might be able to set up triggers similar to those sent by banks that ask, “Did you make this transaction?”
The most important thing you can do is keep your private financial information secure. A dose of caution about the financial information you leave unprotected will reduce the opportunity for you to be a victim of identity theft. A CFP® professional can guide you and help ensure that you have confidence today and a more secure tomorrow.
Have you already been a victim of identity fraud, or want to better prepare? At LetsMakeAPlan.org, you can learn how you can recover your finances and bring all the pieces of your financial life together in a safe and secure manner with the help of a CFP® professional.