Benjamin Franklin was a sage. He is the originator of “Do not throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are made of glass”. He also offered “No pain, no gain”.
Amazingly, he shared this nugget about 250 years before the internet was even invented: “An ounce of prevention is better than cure.
Online security is a growing issue that requires special attention. This is especially true for older people. I recently remembered this work with a client who suffered financial fraud. Fortunately, my client was cured. But it certainly didn’t come without worry and stress. In the spirit of prevention, here are some easy steps to take.
Two-factor authentication: It’s the holy grail for your online financial accounts. Each time you log in, a text message should be sent to you with a unique code to access your accounts. Almost all reputable financial institutions have this security measure. If you can log in, without going through a two-factor authentication process, please stop reading this article immediately and contact your bank, credit card and financial advisor.
Use a password manager: Every person I know has trouble remembering all of their usernames and passwords. Naturally, the easiest way is to use the same login information for each website. Unfortunately, this is the best way to allow fraudsters to access each of your accounts! So what can you do? Use a password manager, such as LastPass or 1Password. These applications will allow you to establish unique passwords and, above all, store them securely in one place.
Configure activity alerts: If a scammer manages to gain access to your accounts, there are things you can do to limit the damage. For example, many financial institutions allow you to set up text, email, or phone alerts for large purchases or possible fraudulent transactions. If you’re not sure how to set up these account alerts, call your bank, credit cards, or financial advisor again for help.
Block your accounts: I have to admit that this suggestion may seem a bit odd. For my clients, I have deliberately limited what they can do online in their investment accounts. Unless otherwise specified, they cannot simply log in and buy or sell securities or withdraw money from their investment accounts. Of course, the same goes for any villains who could access it as well.
While logging out completely is still an option, it’s increasingly cumbersome. Fraudsters don’t like to work so hard. They look for easy targets.
Jason P. Tank, CFA, CFP® is the owner of Front Street Wealth Management, a fee-based consulting firm, and the founder of Money Series, a nonprofit program committed to providing free access to financial education for all . Contact him at (231) 947-3775, [email protected] and www.FrontStreet.com