5 Steps to Fraud Prevention in an Increasingly Virtual World

September 8, 2020

Over the last 6 months, working from home, online shopping, and the necessity of virtual communication has expanded rapidly in the COVID environment. With that expansion has come an increased opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of a virtual world.

The FBI cyber division has received between 3,000 and 4,000 cybersecurity complaints each day – almost 4x the amount of pre-pandemic environment1. Now more than ever, it’s essential to take precautions. Here are 5 best practices to better protect yourself…

1. Avoid Phishing Scams

In a phishing scam, the cybercriminal pretends to be a legitimate source and makes a request via email or text often with urgency. These are getting more and more sophisticated…often appearing to be from a friend or colleague. It’s estimated that 150 million phishing emails are sent daily, so you always have to be on your guard. So, before you click…

    • If you don’t recognize the email address or phone number sending you a message, don’t respond, click on a link, or give information.
    • Beware of cloned websites that may appear to be legitimate – secure websites start with https, not http.
    • You can hover over the link to reveal the true destination before clicking.
    • Malicious links can come from friends who have been infected too.

2. Up your Security

    • Use Two Factor or Multifactor Authentication whenever possible
      • Many apps and websites have this as an option for additional security, you just need to turn it on. Layering in additional security is not efficient but it can make all the difference in protecting your accounts.
      • This can often come in the form of a text /email with a code or fingerprint scan.
    • Change your Passwords Regularly
      • At least once a quarter, update your passwords – again not efficient and a little time consuming, but using the same password across all logins from email to bank access leaves you more susceptible in a breach for any provider/website you use.
    • Use a Strong Password
      • Size and complexity matters. A password string of 8 letters can take milliseconds for a hacker to break. Lengthen it to 10 digits, add in a number, capital letter, and special character and that can increase the amount of time it would take to break to 10 years+2.

3. Protect Personal Identifiable Information (PII)

    • PII includes social security number, account numbers, driver’s license number, birthdate, address, phone number, etc.
    • Be thoughtful about attachments sent through email. Always password protect attachments with PII or upload them through a secure portal (like MyBDF)
    • Shred Bank Statements and other documents with account numbers and PII – don’t just throw them away.

4. Freeze Your Credit

    • If you don’t plan on opening new lines of credit, it’s best to put a freeze on your credit with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. When you freeze your credit record, you prevent lenders from seeing your credit report unless you specifically grant them access. This can prevent identity thieves from taking out new credit in your name, even if they have your Social Security number and other personal information.

5. If your identity or credit is comprised let us know

    • There are additional steps that can be taken at Schwab or TD Ameritrade in the event your identity or personal information is compromised.

The COVID-19 environment has magnified the importance of fraud prevention. Taking the steps above are a great start to combat against cyber and identity theft risks.

1 https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/493198-fbi-sees-spike-in-cyber-crime-reports-during-coronavirus-pandemic
2 https://www.betterbuys.com/estimating-password-cracking-times/

Neil Teubel, CFP®, MS is Director of Financial Planning and a Wealth Manager at BDF. Neil has a passion for Financial Planning and heads BDF’s Financial Planning Committee which strives to ensure every client benefits from proactive, best in class financial planning. Neil has been recognized by Chicago Magazine as a Five Star Wealth Manager and by Forbes as a top Next-Gen Wealth Advisor nationally. He received an undergraduate degree in Financial Planning from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in Personal Financial Planning from Texas Tech University, where he earned his CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification.