Imagine logging into your account in the midst of all the market volatility last year to see you’re down $10,000. Having an idea of the unpredictable market swings happening daily, you write this off as an unrealized investment loss and go about your day. Then it happens again, and again, before you realize something fishy might be going on. Upon further investigation you learn that a hacker has logged into your account, changed your contact information, and has regularly been siphoning money out of your account and into their own.
Cyber security is a continuously increasing concern in today’s virtual environment. Between tax scams with fake IRS calls to the public and hackers holding businesses for ransom, we can add another target to the list- investment accounts - and not in the way you’d imagine.
As financial professionals, we know if a gain or loss is justified in a given account. However, if someone doesn’t pay much attention to their account and doesn’t work with a trusted advisor looking over things, it’s easy to write off a loss to a market swing and miss the fraud that might actually be taking place. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common and people are experiencing the shocking realization when they dig a little deeper in their account history.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
- Pay attention to account activity.
Target date funds are one of the most popular investment options in a 401(k), and people often forget to periodically check their accounts. Paying attention to your investments, even if you don’t plan to change anything for years, is vital to catching potential fraud early and maximizing the chances of saving your assets from theft.
- Work with a trusted advisor.
Not only that, but make sure you can easily get a hold of your advisor, and that they are confirming any important transactions or changes verbally with you. This will make it much harder for a hacker to get in and change essential account details to gain access to your money.
- Shred, Shred, Shred.
A rule in our house is, if it comes from a financial institution that we have accounts with, it gets shredded. This avoids accidently throwing away a full social security number or account number, giving easy access to anyone who might have malicious intent.
There are many ways to heighten the protections on your hard-earned money, make sure you are maximizing them and always aware of what is going on with your investment accounts. Hackers are getting smarter and more tactical but with vigilant oversight, catching things early can help make you whole again should the unthinkable happen.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.