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7 quick ways to protect your money from cybercrime

Allworth Co-CEO Scott Hanson shares a few easy ways to lessen the chance your money will end up in the hands of a scammer.

 

The death this week of the infamous Bernie Madoff got me thinking about fraud and cyber security. Madoff, as most people know, was the architect behind one of the largest and longest-running Ponzi schemes the world has ever seen.

The one thing we can all learn from the Madoff scandal is that when it comes to investing, there are no shortcuts. Slow and steady wins the race. And if something seems too good to be true? It is.

If a financial professional ever promises you returns without risk, you should walk away.

Still, it isn't only unscrupulous brokers that rip people off. Most of us are far more likely to be the victim of identity theft or cybercrime than we are to ever run across a Bernie Madoff.  

What follows are 7 quick tips to help keep you from getting burned.   

Use unique passwords for everything and change them often

In 2020, Security Magazine reported that 53% of people use the same password for all their online accounts, and that 75% of people use the same password for multiple accounts. 1

It’s important to understand that, if the right type of computer is dedicated to probing you, even the greatest passwords (long, detailed, personal) can eventually be hacked. But even if you get hacked, if you regularly change your passwords, by the time the crooks get around to ripping you off, they’ll no longer be able to gain access.

And while it may seem complicated, using unique passwords for every single account you have keeps a small, preventable breach from becoming a massive headache that could take years to clean up.

Get creative with your usernames

Remember, usernames, unlike passwords, are rarely hidden. And once anyone, from a hacker to a marketer, has your username, they can find a lot of information about you online.

Are you one of those individuals who is creative with your passwords, but then mails it in with your username? Utilizing different usernames for every account, and, just like passwords, changing them often, goes a long way toward protecting you from scams and cybertheft.

While there are all sorts of strategies you can employ, a great first step is to never use your actual name or surname for any account.

Activate a one-two punch

Cybertheft may be a thriving business, but one of the simplest and most ingenious roadblocks to those types of crimes is using two-step verification. This means that in addition to a password, access to your account(s) requires a second step such as a passcode (that’s texted to you) or the use of your thumbprint.

Be private

Be it when I gas up my car, or make a retail purchase at a store, every time I enter my pin I first glance around to make certain no one is watching, and then I cover the keypad with my free hand.

Also, if you are in the habit of making purchases on your computer, or phone, do it in a private location so no one can see your credit card number.

Allow your financial institutions to contact you when they suspect fraud

Via phone and email, we’re besieged by salespeople at every turn. This can motivate us to hastily decline the offer to receive fraud alerts when we open accounts.

Don’t do that.

When your bank or financial institution offers to contact you to verify any suspicious or large purchase, it’s not an intrusion, they are doing you (and themselves) a big favor.

Don’t give information to anyone who calls you on the phone

Ever received a call from the IRS threatening you with arrest if you don’t immediately pay the money you owe?

A few years back, my Co-CEO at Allworth received just such a call, and so, as a warning to listeners, we arranged for the scammer to call back live during a broadcast of one of our radio programs. Within a week, we received dozens of messages from people who’d been stalked by the same scam.

Unfortunately, one caller’s elderly father was taken for $10,000.

The IRS will never call you and threaten you (if you owe the IRS, they’ll let you know by mail). Same goes for the Social Security Administration.

Limit your photo sharing on social media

A huge percentage of Twitter and Facebook users are people pretending to be someone else, or bots. Computers and social networking sites have combined to remove a layer of privacy that we used to take for granted. When you go on vacation, wait until after the trip to post photos so thieves don’t know you aren’t at home.

 

Getting ripped off is time consuming, embarrassing, and potentially ruinous to both your credit rating and finances. These simple steps won’t guarantee your safety, but they will make it a lot more difficult for thieves who are trying to scam you.

Put it on your calendar so that every few months you set aside an hour to reset your passwords and usernames. And, if you aren’t already doing it, initiate two-step verification for every service you use and each account you have.

 

1 https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/92331-of-people-admit-they-reuse-the-same-password-for-multiple-accounts