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Americans’ top worries about crime are “having your personal, credit card or financial information stolen by computer hackers” and “being the victim of identity theft” according to a Gallup survey published in late 2017. In a world that is going increasingly digital, we must all adapt, and retirees are no exception. For example, a few years back, the Social Security Administration briefly did away with mailing out annual paper statements and tried having everyone download this information from the government website. Cybersecurity consciousness is necessary to help keep your financial assets safe and secure. This article briefly presents five ideas that won’t cost a dime but do require a little investment of your time.
From the Social Security Administration’s website: “Create your account today and take away the risk of someone else trying to create one in your name, even if they obtain your Social Security number.” Or, as cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs puts it, “If you don’t plant your flag, someone might do it for you.” Plant your flag for practical reasons, even if you are years away from collecting benefits and have doubts whether the program will still be viable. Moreover, having access to the latest statement greatly helps your advisor perform more accurate retirement income planning. To combat fraudulent online activity, or if you can’t accurately answer the online verification questions, you can alternatively present identification in person at your local Social Security office. You will receive a one-time access code to help set up your online account.
Configure a FREE security/credit freeze with each credit bureau. Devin Kropp, co-author of the book “Hack-Proof Your Life Now!” explains: “By default, your credit files at Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are open and unsecured. It makes it easy and quick to obtain new lines of credit — you fill out an application, the lender checks your credit, and you’re approved if you meet the standards. A security freeze locks your credit file at each bureau with a special PIN that only you know. That PIN must be used in order for anyone to access your credit file or add new credit in your name. Unlike credit monitoring or fraud alerts, a security freeze stops identity theft from happening rather than alerting you to fraud after it has occurred.” Since September 21, 2018, credit freezes are now free to consumers under federal legislation passed earlier this year.
Use a password manager and two-factor authentication. Check the integrity of your existing online credentials at a website like Have I Been Pwned (HIBP). For example, you can type in your e-mail address and see if it has been compromised in any past data breaches. Then click on the ‘Passwords’ section and type in a password you might be using to see the frequency of its use in past hacks. The password ‘welcome’ has been seen about 235,000 times before when websites have been compromised. It’s advisable then to use a password from a password manager that contains a random string of letters, numbers, and symbols. Two-factor authentication involves using a phone’s short message service (SMS) or an app like Google Authenticator to provide a second layer of verification.
Have your credit card issuer send you a text every time a purchase is made. At a recent workshop with Ed Slott’s Elite IRA Advisor Group, I saw security expert Robert Siciliano share the merits of this tip this way. One day while he was at home, Robert received a text message that his card had just been charged $7 at a grocery store. He double-checked with his wife, and she said that she was in the car taking their child to school. Had Robert waited until the statement came in a month later, he probably would have disregarded such a nominal charge. Since he was notified about it in real-time and knew that it was fraudulent, he could notify the card company immediately. Also, because it was a credit card instead of a debit card, the risk of loss was on the card issuer and not the cardholder.
Consistently keep your guard up. There are scams of all different varieties: someone claiming to be from the IRS, someone imitating a CEO in a confidential message to the company’s controller, someone trying to use the emotion of love to prey on the heart to practice a swindle, etc. As a general rule, DO NOT provide any information to anyone unless you know for sure who they are and why they need this information.
Industry firm Symantec estimated that U.S. consumers, who fell victim to cybercrime in 2015, spent an average of 21 hours recovering from the incident for an average of $358 per person. Cybercrimes have only gotten worse since then. Proactively implementing the tips provided above will cost you much less time and no money.
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