“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” — Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Question: According to the news, it appears that cybercrime and identity theft are on the rise. What can we do to protect ourselves?
Answer: You’re right; these types of crime are on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission reports that between 2011 and 2013, odds increased by 65 percent that if you were notified of an online data compromise, you’d become an actual victim of identity theft.
Because that’s where the money is.
Willie Sutton (1901-1980) the notorious bank robber who reportedly stole more than $2 million dollars over 40 years is cited as saying his reason for robbing banks was “because that’s where the money is.” Although he denied saying this, the assertion became known as “Sutton’s Law” and is taught in medical schools to remind students to first consider the obvious when treating patients. What Willie actually said is, “Go where the money is and go there often.” Cybercriminals are doing just that.
As technology reshapes our lives, financial habits and behaviors change. We’ve moved to online shopping and “swipe and go” electronic payments making consumers vulnerable to data breaches. As our friend, Willie Sutton taught us, robbers go where the money (or information) is located, and they go there often.
This month, our Women’s Financial Group invited a Marco Island Police Department detective to discuss identity theft and cybercrime. Not only do thieves steal information the old-fashioned way by taking wallets and dumpster diving for sensitive information, mailbox theft is prevalent in our area. Thieves also access email and other online information via cybercrime and “shoulder surf” for access codes and pin numbers. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission. This not only disrupts your financial well-being, it is intrusive, unsettling, costly and takes time and patience to resolve.
Tips to protect yourself:
1) Review your online banking, credit card and other statements every few days to minimize damage if there is a breach.
2) Shred documents containing personal, financial and medical information with a cross-shredder rather than strip-cut shredders. Most of us have seen NCIS or CSI episodes where documents are reconstructed from “strip-cut” remnants. Make it more difficult for the criminals to obtain your sensitive information.
3) Use secure websites as indicated by “https” (rather than “http”) for online transactions.
4) Make payments online or bring mail to the post office rather than placing it in your mailbox for thieves to swipe. Often the first clue that you’ve been hacked is to receive notice that you’ve been approved for a new credit card although you never applied for one. The “new” card has likely been mailed to an alternate address.
5) Dedicate one credit card for online purchases. If you’re compromised, it will be less disruptive and easier to contain the breach.
6) Monitor online use of children or grandchildren in your household with parental control features.
7) Don’t use the same password for more than one account, mix letters with numbers and special characters.
8) Practice situational awareness and be alert.
9) Avoid the outside pumps at gas stations that may be at greater risk of credit card skimmer theft because they might be out of security camera range.
10) Be mindful when posting information to social media outlets. Present-day Willie Sutton types are watching.
If you are a victim and your identity and financial well-being is compromised, call the local police and contact the consumer credit reporting agencies. A copy of the police report will be helpful when dealing with the credit bureaus. Write a letter to confirm your report and document all correspondence. Those who have been infiltrated report that working with local authorities made an unpleasant situation tolerable.
During the holiday season of 2013, Target and many of their customers were victims of a national cybercrime incident. As of Nov. 1, 2014, that breach cost the company more than $140 million and affected credit and debit card information of 110 million customers. US consumers are increasing more vulnerable to data breaches by companies and financial institutions both large and small. Last year, Home Depot, Sony and J.P. Morgan each had to deal with advanced high-level security breaches. In the first month of this year, Morgan Stanley had the personal information of 350 million high net worth clients compromised by one employee.
A move in the right direction is that this year US retailers will change to the “Europay” style of credit and debit cards. These new thicker cards contain a chip and higher levels of encryption with new codes for each transaction. US retailers were slow to make this move because of the high cost to install new point-of-sale terminals. As we move toward iPay and GooglePay technology, European-style Master Card and Visa (EMV) will be the new normal. This will certainly help to reduce crime but hackers will continue to try to separate you from your virtual wallet. Stay focused and remain cautious.
Views expressed are the current opinion of the author, but not necessarily those of Raymond James & Associates. The author’s opinions are subject to change without notice. Information contained in this report was received from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy is not guaranteed.
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This article provided by Darcie Guerin, CFP®, Associate Vice President, Investments & Branch Manager of Raymond James & Associates, Inc. Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC 606 Bald Eagle Dr. Suite 401, Marco Island, FL 34145. She may be reached at 239-389-1041, email firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.raymondjames.com/InvestmentInsights