Phishing, the latest way scammers are trying to get access to your personal information, is on the rise. According to a recent article published by Charles Schwab Advisor Services, in the time between October 2013 to December 2016, the FBI investigated more than 22,000 phishing incidents resulting in nearly $1.6 billion in losses – roughly $500 million per year. In a recent webcast they offered to financial advisors, they shared that these scams continue to threaten the wealth management industry and have become a primary area of focus for them as they seek to serve and protect their customers. With that in mind, we wanted to give you a few tips on how to protect yourself from these types of attacks.
As we discover newer and better ways to secure our money and data, scammers are relying more and more on attaining personal data. That is essentially the goal of phishing scams which use fake emails or texts to obtain your personal information. They then use this information to hack the accounts you thought were secure.
A friend recently shared a story in which hackers were able to break into his email and begin sending emails on his behalf to his financial advisor. When the advisor responded, the hacker was able to reroute the emails before my friend even saw them – essentially communicating with the financial advisor without leaving any traces. Luckily, the financial advisor had his guard up and as soon as he suspected something "phishy," contacted my friend over the phone. The scary thing is that this is all too common. All it takes is for you to click on a seemingly innocent link planted in an email from a scammer. Clicking on the link allows the hacker to access your computer in various ways depending on what the link is setup to do. So what can you do to protect yourself?
Don’t Click on Links!
Scammers are getting more and more savvy in the ways they try to trick you. That’s why it’s critical that you keep your guard up. Be skeptical of any email that looks phishy. Only a few months ago I received an email from a financial organization I work with. I was expecting an important update from them and immediately clicked the link, only to notice later that the email address was a little off. Instead of using “o”s they had used “0”s and instead of the usual .com, the email ended with a .org. I contacted the organization and learned that they had no record of sending such an email. Luckily, I caught it quickly, immediately changed all of my passwords, screened all the settings on my email, and no harm was done, but it did wake me up to the realities of phishing.
Call to Verify
Even emails from close friends and family can get hacked and hackers are getting better and better at mimicking the way we communicate with others. With that in mind, if something sounds weird – verify. If your grandma is suddenly asking for large sums of money or your social security number – give her a call. It’s likely someone has hacked her email and she doesn’t know it.
Turn on Two-Factor Authentication
This is a great way to protect your information that is becoming widely available. Two-factor authentication requires you to verify your identity when logging into an account by having the website you’re logging in to send a pin number to your phone or email that you then use to verify it’s you. When I got caught up in a phishing scam, this was one of the things that saved me. The scammers were trying to break into my outlook account. Luckily, I have two-factor set up on that account meaning the scammers would also have to access my phone and phone number in order to break in. For those of you who are clients, Schwab has recently added this feature to their Schwab Alliance portals.
As always, your security remains one of our top priorities and we continue to look for new and improved ways to protect your information. Of course, we can’t do it without your help. If you’d like to learn more about phishing and how best to protect yourself, check out the following resources from the Federal Trade Commission and Charles Schwab:
“Don’t get hooked by phishing scams.” Charles Schwab. May 16, 2018. https://advisorservices.schwab.com/insights-hub/perspectives/prevent-phishing-scams