Hack-Proof Your Life Now!

senior woman is using smartphone

As part of the Brown Financial Risk Management Review, we discuss the importance of protecting your identity and accounts from digital criminals. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 23.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 20211 so it is critically important to protect yourself and avoid being an easy target. In their book, Hack-Proof Your Life Now!, Sean Bailey and Devin Kropp share strategies for ensuring you and your accounts are safe.2 Here are five basic strategies to help you improve your financial security:

#1 Use a unique email address for your financial accounts. Most people use one or two email addresses for all their communications. The longer those addresses are used, the more likely they are to be connected to other parts of your online life. As the book says, “Once a cybercrook seizes any email account linked to other logins, such as online banking, he just needs to run a “reset password” request to start causing trouble.” You should create a new email address and use it exclusively for financial accounts. Set it up with the strongest possible security settings and be sure to include 2-factor verification.

#2 Add 2-step verification to your accounts. To protect yourself, you should go into the online settings of all your bank, credit, and email accounts and set up 2-factor authentication. This additional verification method comes in many forms from a text message to your phone to an app that contains a security key. Any additional verification will help protect your accounts from attacks.

#3 Use a password manager. A password manager will store your passwords securely (so you won’t have to remember them all), allow you to generate difficult, random passwords to use on your accounts, and fill your passwords for you when you need to use them. Some of the most popular password managers are Dashlane, Last Pass, 1Password, and iCloud Keychain. Many of these password managers cost less than $40 per year. For convenience and added security, this may be the best money you will ever spend.

#4 Use public Wi-Fi cautiously and NEVER for email or conducting financial transactions. Wi-Fi connections in coffee shops, airports, and hotel rooms, even when password protected, are notoriously common places for cybercriminals to intercept and steal your information. Use your phone’s hotspot or if you must use a public Wi-Fi, consider a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your data while you are online.

#5 Avoid clicking links in emails. Still one of the most common and successful attacks occurs when an email that is created to look legitimate contains a link to malware or directs you to a dangerous website. Even the best security measures are useless when the door is opened willingly. Always go directly to the website if you need to log in and try to avoid clicking links within the emails. 

With the prevalence of identity theft and cyber crimes, proactive measures are essential to mitigate risks. Although not an exhaustive list, these few simple but consistent strategies to protect yourself will help ensure you are not the “low-hanging fruit” and your financial information is secure. 

Additionally, our True Life Planning Cycle helps our clients maintain a comprehensive view of their finances. By addressing various facets of your financial life, the process may help identify potential issues while providing complete solutions to support keeping your money and goals on track. Contact us to learn more about our approach and how we can help you achieve financial peace of mind.

1. https://bjs.ojp.gov/library/publications/victims-identity-theft-2021#:~:text=Data%20include%20types%20of%20identity,during%20the%20prior%2012%20months.  

2. Bailey, Sean M., and Devin Kropp. Hack-Proof Your Life Now!: The New Cybersecurity Rules: Protect Your Email, Computers, and Bank Accounts from Hacks, Malware, and Identity Theft. Horsesmouth, 2019.

The foregoing content reflects the opinions of Brown McLeod, Inc. and is subject to change at any time without notice. Content provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be used or construed as investment advice or a recommendation regarding the purchase or sale of any security. There is no guarantee that the statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct. All tax, legal, investment and other strategies should be discussed with the appropriate professional prior to implementation.

Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Indices are not available for direct investment. Any investor who attempts to mimic the performance of an index would incur fees and expenses which would reduce returns.

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Posted in Financial Planning Concepts