With the winter holidays coming up, you may be rushing through life’s tasks a bit. I know I am. You’re shopping, traveling and trying to get as much work done as possible in between holidays. Unfortunately, though, rushing through emails—and being on your mobile devices a lot—can open you up to cyberfraud.
Cybertheft doesn’t just mean someone hacking your credit card account, which is what we often hear about. Some thieves also use your personal information to try to access your investment accounts. That’s of much greater concern to us at RegentAtlantic.
The good news is that our team members are aware of the issues and when something is a bit “off” with a client request, they will check to be sure it’s legitimate. However, let me tell you a bit about how cyberthieves work so you’ll understand how we try to fight them—and how you can help protect your financial and personal information.
Cyberfraud in the passenger seat
Here’s a hypothetical cautionary tale: Just before Thanksgiving, Tom was heading out of town to spend the holiday with his family. His son drove so Tom could sit in the passenger seat with his smartphone and check that he had taken care of all his important emails.
One of Tom’s emails was an invitation to share an electronic file with someone he knew. In his rush—and because this seemed like a legitimate request from someone he knew (a work contact)—Tom clicked on the file-sharing invite. That was a mistake. The link ended up being a fraudulent “phishing” email. The link took Tom to a fake file sharing site where he entered in the credentials to his email.
Using the credentials, the cyber thief began to use Tom’s email to send out the same phishing email to his contact. Fortunately, someone alerted Tom about the emails and he realized that his email account had been hacked and that his contacts were receiving the same phishing email that fooled him. Tom was able to lock the hacker out of his email quickly by resetting his password. No harm was done. But it was a close call.
Two factors contributed to Tom’s near disaster. First, emails often look really different on your phone than they do on your computer. On a phone, inconsistencies in font, style and overall “look at feel” can be harder to detect, It’s possible that Tom would have been suspicious of the message had he seen it on a big screen. Second, there was all that holiday rushing. Under normal circumstances, Tom should have realized that this person would never share a file with him like that. Before clicking on the link, he should have called her to verify that it was legitimate.
The takeaway: Email and mobile devices are the keys to many fraud attempts. Thieves are smart. They access your email through a phishing message or maybe when you log in from an insecure, public Wi-Fi network. For weeks or even months, they’ll read your emails and learn about you—your pets, your kids, which financial institutions send you e-statements, where you’re heading on vacation and more. When the time is right—they’ll strike.
Cyberfraud at the car dealership
Here’s another hypothetical example:
Claire phoned her financial advisor and asked him to wire money from her account to a car dealership for a new car. The advisor emailed the dealership and got wire-transfer instructions.
When Claire arrived at the dealership to pick up her car, the money hadn’t arrived. Why? The car dealership’s email account had been compromised. A thief intercepted the wire transfer request and gave the financial advisor a different account for the money transfer!
Fortunately, the bank was able to reverse the wire and withdraw the money from the thief’s account. But another close call. The advisor shouldn’t have relied on email alone to verify the wire transfer.
Cyberfraud through personal email
Our third hypothetical involves Fred, a financial advisor. Fred got an email from a longtime client—actually, from a thief impersonating the client after hacking his email. The would-be thief first engaged in some friendly email conversation with Fred. Then he set up an appointment to review his portfolio. Once the “client” had established a sense of normalcy, he asked for some money to be wired.
Fortunately, Fred knew his client well. The email didn’t ring true. Fred called the client and confirmed that he’d never sent the money request. The client changed his email password and locked out the hacker.
This story is a great reminder of why you benefit from working with professionals you know and who know you well.
At RegentAtlantic, you’re not just an account number and a financial balance. We know you, your voice on the phone, the type of language you usually use in emails and personal details that hackers could never guess.
If your advisor gets a suspicion that a call or email from you—or someone close to you—might not be authentic, we’ll double check.
Make it tough for cyberthieves to target you
During this holiday season, help us head off investment cyberfraud at the pass. Be cautious about how you respond to messages you read on your smartphone. Also, if you get an unusual request from someone you know, pick up the phone and verify that it’s legit.
Remember, too, that RegentAtlantic works hard to safeguard your accounts.
If you have any questions at all about our efforts to keep your accounts safe, feel free to contact your Wealth Manager anytime. Have a happy and safe holiday!
Important disclosure information
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, including the loss of money invested. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Therefore, it should not be assumed that future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy, including the investments or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by RegentAtlantic Capital, LLC (“RegentAtlantic”) will be profitable.
Please remember to contact RegentAtlantic if there are any changes in your personal or financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing our previous recommendations and services, or if you wish to impose, add, or modify any reasonable restrictions to our investment management services. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for your review upon request.
This article is not a substitute for personalized advice from RegentAtlantic. This article is current only as of the date on which it was sent. The statements and opinions expressed are, however, subject to change without notice based on market and other conditions and may differ from opinions expressed in other businesses and activities of RegentAtlantic. Descriptions of RegentAtlantic’s process and strategies are based on general practice and we may make exceptions in specific cases.
RegentAtlantic does not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult with a legal and or tax professional of your choosing prior to implementing any of the strategies discussed in this article.