This article originally appeared in Aldrich Community, a client experience offering from Aldrich Wealth.
Picture this: You’ve just returned home from a vacation. The luggage has been placed in your front hall, and you’re ready to sort through the mail that accumulated while you were away. You come across a letter that, by all appearances, seems to have been sent to you by your 529 plan provider. It states that your account is empty and that you need to contact them to verify your personal information. Suddenly the residual joy from your trip drains from your body. You’re filled with a sense of dread. “How could this be,” you wonder aloud. What comes next?
Things aren’t always what they appear. If something seems amiss, trust your intuition. Take a few deep breaths, and consider next steps. What will bring you comfort at this moment? Consider contacting a trusted advisor; that’s what a friend who experienced the above scenario did. Since Aldrich Wealth didn’t manage their 529 account, we recommended they login into their account online and call the official number (not the one provided in the letter they received) for their 529 plan provider to verify the account’s status. When our client spoke with the provider, they learned that their accumulated savings were safely intact. When it comes to protecting your personal information and assets, it’s essential to be vigilant and prepared. Below, we’ll outline some immediate, tangible recommendations to help protect you and your family when it comes to preserving personal information.
Verify the identity of anyone contacting you requesting personal information, especially if they claim to represent a financial or government institution.
Invest in credit monitoring and identity protection services.
The risk of identity theft is here to stay. Being alerted early to potential credit fraud saves you time and money spent contesting and correcting the issue. Consider doing this for children below the age of 18, as well. A credit freeze will prevent unwanted credit accounts from being opened in your child’s name.
Implement industry-standard anti-malware and antivirus software across devices.
Don’t limit your protection plans to personal computers; be sure to include mobile devices, tablets, and other network devices.
Adopt a password protection service.
Password security should be at the top of your cybersecurity list. Most passwords in use today can be cracked by brute-force cyber-attacks in mere minutes. By implementing a password service like LastPass, you can safely manage passwords across devices. Also, consider checking out the website haveibeenpwned.com to find out if your email address has been part of a data breach. A breach simply means private information was inadvertently made public. Haveibeenpwned.com also offers insights into what information was compromised. Overall, this can be a resource for ensuring you know when your data may have been exposed and for how to protect yourself in the future.
Secure your smart home.
Can you prompt Google or Alexa with the sound of your voice? Do you have a Ring doorbell? These conveniences fall into the Internet of Things, which leaves them susceptible to unwanted manipulation of controls and siphoning of personal data. It’s paramount that you start with your router’s security controls. While most standard routers have some security measures in place, consider investing in a top-of-the-line router specifically designed to interface with smart electronics, and provide additional protection.
Never use public WiFi without a VPN.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) program allows you to browse the internet with privacy. A VPN also prevents savvy hackers operating in public spaces from waging attacks through a vulnerable public network. If you use a hotspot through your mobile device, make sure the security and encryption features are turned on.
Be thoughtful about what you share on social media.
Seemingly harmless public-facing social media posts may alert traditional criminals to security vulnerabilities. Sharing where and when you’ll be out of town may not be wise. Additionally, be cognizant of what standard security questions are and whether you’ve publicly shared that information.
While cybercrime and data breaches are ever-present, it’s worth implementing personal data security best practices to mitigate your risk exposure. At Aldrich Wealth, we strive to provide peace of mind for our clients, which is why we provide a secure portal and prioritize protecting your information all around. And, if you ever find yourself questioning a potential scam, don’t be afraid to call your advisor at Aldrich Wealth. We are always happy to talk through solutions and provide comfort regarding your financial well-being.
Partner + Director
Nicole Rice, CPA
Aldrich Wealth LP
Nicole has dedicated her entire professional career to helping individuals and corporate clients with their financial needs. She has experience working in the areas of wealth management, retirement planning, tax accounting, design and implementation of non-qualified benefit plans, insurance, and qualified benefit plans. Nicole provides investment-related guidance to individuals and businesses to meet their short…
- Series 65 securities exam
- Retirement planning
- Design and implementation of corporate retirement plans
- Individual wealth management
- Certified Public Accountant