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Tag: cybersecurity

Protect Yourself from Cyber-theives

Everyone knows that the coronavirus has changed how we live, work, and play.  As a result, people are spending more money and time on the internet than ever before.  In fact, some experts estimate that Americans are spending 30% more money online.1  Meanwhile, social media, teleconferencing, telehealth, and mobile payment services are playing an increasingly important role in our daily lives.  Many of us are even shopping for groceries online!

The internet makes it easier to do more things from home than we ever thought possible.  But with this added convenience comes an added risk: The risk of exposing your identity and financial information to cyber-thieves and hackers.  

Data breaches and online scams have increased dramatically since the pandemic began.2  That’s why it’s more important than ever to take simple – but crucial – steps to keep your finances “cyber-secure.”  So, as we continue to keep ourselves safe by staying at home as much as possible, here are four things you can do to keep your finances safe, too.  

1.  Keep all software up to date

What does this have to do with cybersecurity?  Everything.  You see, one of the easiest targets for hackers to attack is outdated software.  That’s because older applications often contain weaknesses that hackers can use to gain access to your devices.  Your web browser – Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, for example – can be especially susceptible.  That’s why you should always:

  • Turn on automatic system updates for your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Download updates and software patches when prompted.
  • Frequently review the apps on your devices, removing the ones you don’t need and updating the ones you do.  
  • Familiarize yourself with your browser’s extensions – think Flash, Java, AdBlocker, etc. – and keep them updated, too.  

Updating your software and devices can be a pain.  After all, no one likes it when their computer prompts them to restart for the umpteenth time just so Windows can install new updates.  But make no mistake – doing so will make it much harder for hackers to access your devices.  

2.  Use stronger passwords via a password management tool

Your email.  Your bank.  Your Facebook account.  These days, we all have to juggle dozens of passwords.  There’s no way to memorize them all, so many people resort to using the same two or three passwords for everything.  To make matters worse, these passwords are often extremely simple.  (Please don’t be the person who uses “password” as their password.)

As a rule of thumb, your passwords should always:

  • Contain at least eight characters
  • Contain at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, one number, and several symbols. (Symbols include exclamation points, question marks, and asterisks.)
  • Be different from one another.  Don’t use the same password twice.  
  • Change at least once per year.

To help with this, consider downloading a password management app.  These are handy tools that make managing passwords a breeze.  That way, instead of having to memorize dozens of passwords, you only need to memorize one.  The app will do the rest, automatically inserting the right password whenever you need it.  Popular password apps include LastPass, Dashlane, and 1Password.        

3.  Embrace two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a techy term for a simple concept.  Think about the front door of your home.  It probably has two locks – a handle lock and a deadbolt.  While the deadbolt is a second layer of security for your home, two-factor authentication is a second layer of security for your identity.

Normally, when you log into an app or website, you type in your username and password.  Two-factor authentication goes a step further by requiring you to enter at least one additional form of authentication.  This is often a personal identification number, like a four-digit code.  It can also be a second password, the answer to a question only you would know, or even your fingerprint.  Only by entering two different forms of authentication can you login to the app or website.  Yes, it adds another five seconds to the process.  But two-factor authentication makes it much harder for thieves and hackers to access your email, Facebook profile, or Amazon account.  Use it!  

4.  Use anti-virus (AV) protection software

Back to basics here. It’s been around for decades, but good AV software is still critical to protecting yourself from viruses and malware. Be advised, though, that it’s better to use one program than two or three. Multiple AV programs can clash with each other, slowing your device and paradoxically leaving you more open to attack. So, rely on one good program you can trust, and remember to keep it updated! 

These are all basic steps that you’ve probably heard before.  But, as financial advisors, we often find that while people have usually heard of these steps, following them is a different matter.  So, as you keep working to protect yourself from the coronavirus, take time to protect yourself from hackers and online viruses, too.  It’s one of the best ways to keep your identity – and your financial future – secure.    

1 “COVID Consumers: Pessimistic, but spending more online,” Search Engine Land, March 25, 2020.

2 “COVID-19 lockdowns are causing a huge spike in data breaches,” TechRepublic, April 21, 2020.

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How to Protect Your Finances from Phishing

Imagine this scenario.  You get an email that appears to be from your bank.  You open it and read a message riddled with misspelled words that direct you to “click the link below.”  You click on the link and are taken to a page that looks almost exactly like the website you’re used to visiting.  


This type of scam is what’s known as phishing, and hopefully, it’s never happened to you.  Or, if it has, hopefully you recognized the warning signs and knew to stay away.  Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize those signs, and fall prey to a particularly insidious form of fraud that can be very damaging to your finances.  

To help you understand more about what phishing is, and how you can protect your finances from it, we have prepared a special infographic.  It lists some of the common ways hackers try to “phish” for your personal information and provides some common-sense rules that will help increase your cybersecurity.   

We hope you find this infographic helpful.  As always, please contact us if you have any questions, or if there is any way we can serve you.  

Tips for Preventing Fraud

Tips for preventing fraud

Cybercrime and fraud are serious threats and constant vigilance is key. While our firm plays an important role in helping protect your assets, you can also take action to protect yourself and help secure your information. This checklist summarizes common cyber fraud tactics, along with tips and best practices. Many suggestions may be things you’re doing now, while others may be new. We also cover actions to take if you suspect that your personal information has been compromised. If you have questions, we’re here to help.

Cyber criminals exploit our increasing reliance on technology. Methods used to compromise a victim’s identity or login credentials – such as malware, phishing, and social engineering – are increasingly sophisticated and difficult to spot. A fraudster’s goal is to obtain information to access to your account and assets or sell your information for this purpose. Fortunately, criminals often take the path of least resistance. Following best practices and applying caution when sharing information or executing transactions makes a big difference.

How we can work together to protect your information and assets

Safe practices for communicating with our firm
  • Keep us informed regarding changes to your personal information.
  • Expect us to call you to confirm email requests to move money, trade, or change account information.
  • Establish a verbal password with our firm to confirm your identity, or request a video chat.
How Schwab protects your account

Schwab takes your security seriously and leverages protocols and policies to help protect your financial assets.    

  • Confirm your identity using Schwab’s voice ID service when calling the Schwab Alliance team for support.
  • Use two-factor authentication, which requires you to enter a unique code each time you access your Schwab accounts.
  • Review the Schwab Security Guarantee, which covers 100% of any losses in any of your Schwab accounts due to unauthorized activity.

To learn more, visit Schwab’s Client Learning Center.

What you can do

Be aware of suspicious phone calls, emails, and texts asking you to send money or disclose personal information. If a service rep calls you, hang up and call back using a known phone number.
Never share sensitive information or conduct business via email, as accounts are often compromised.
Beware of phishing and malicious links. Urgent-sounding, legitimate-looking emails are intended to tempt
you to accidentally disclose personal information or install malware.
Don’t open links or attachments from unknown sources. Enter the web address in your browser.
Check your email and account statements regularly for suspicious activity.
Never enter confidential information in public areas. Assume someone is always watching.

Exercise caution when moving money

Leverage our electronic authorization tool to verify requests. Featuring built-in safeguards, this is the fastest and most secure way to move money.
Review and verbally confirm all disbursement request details thoroughly before providing your approval, especially when sending funds to another country. Never trust wire instructions received via email.

Adhere to strong password principles

Don’t use personal information as part of your login ID or password and don’t share login credentials
Create a unique, complex password for each website, Change it every six months. Consider using a password manager to simplify this process.

Maintain updated technology

Keep your web browser, operating system, antivirus, and anti-spyware updated, and activate the firewall.
Do not use free/found USB devices. They may be infected with malware.
Check security settings on your applications and web browser. Make sure they’re strong.
Turn off Bluetooth when it’s not needed.
Dispose of old hardware safely by performing a factory reset or removing and destroying all storage data devices.

Use caution on websites and social media

Do not visit websites you don’t know, (e.g., advertised on pop-up ads and banners).
Log out completely to terminate access when exiting all websites.
Don’t use public computers or free Wi-Fi. Use a personal Wi-Fi hotspot or a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Hover over questionable links to reveal the URL before clicking. Secure websites start with “https,” not “http.”
Be cautious when accepting “friend” requests on social media, liking posts, or following links.
Limit sharing information on social media sites. Assume fraudsters can see everything, even if you have safeguards.
Consider what you’re disclosing before sharing or posting your résumé.

What to do if you suspect a breach

Call our office or your Schwab Alliance team immediately at 800-515-2157 so that they can watch for suspicious activity and collaborate with you on other steps to take.
Request our “How to Respond to a Data Breach” flyer for more information.

Learn more

Visit these sites for more information and best practices:

  • Review the STOP. THINK. CONNECT™ cybersecurity educational campaign.
  • Focused on online security for kids, it includes a blog on current cyber trends. 
  • FDIC Consumer Assistance & Information,
  • FBI Scams and Safety provides additional tips,