Phishing, Fraud, and Security Issues
By: Kristina K. Bolhouse, CPA/PFS, CFP®
Recently, we had several clients call concerned they had fallen victim to phishing schemes, or had otherwise compromised key personal information. These were what appeared to be legitimate financial institutions requesting verification of information. We encourage clients to “self-monitor” investments using www.Fidelity.com (or www.Schwab.com). For checking accounts, credit cards and other financial activities, we recommend websites such as www.mint.com, www.yodlee.com, and www.mvelopes.com. We also recommend opening all mail from Fidelity, Schwab, or other custodians just to verify the nature of the communication. For example, if you move and change your address, a letter is sent to your old address and your new address verifying the change. While this may seem strange and redundant to those busy folks attempting to get settled into a new home, it is an important control feature. The goal here is to verify that a legitimate move has occurred, and not simply someone redirecting your communications.
Another action we encourage is to periodically request a free credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to receive a free credit report annually from each credit reporting agency. The website to receive these free reports is www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also request an “initial fraud alert” (free) for 90 days if you suspect a breach of your personal information (such as accidentally responding to a phishing e-mail). Of the three credit reporting agencies, I think Experian has the most user-friendly interface for the 90 day initial fraud alert. If you go to www.experian.com, a tab on the bottom of the home page will take you to the “Fraud Alert” section. Experian is then required to communicate this alert to TransUnion and Equifax, the other two credit reporting companies. You can extend a fraud alert to 7 years if you have filed an identity theft report with a Federal, State or local law enforcement agency.
In summary, there are measures that can be taken to prevent and detect problems, they just require a little legwork or set up time.
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