In the wake of the Equifax data breach, many consumers have been scrambling for ways to protect their financial accounts from identity thieves.
Here are some security measures and technology features to help protect your investment accounts.
Secure Your Online Account Access
Add “Two Factor Authentication”
This is a fancy sounding term, but it is a very strong measure, and one that is easy and free. It works like this: Your account custodian sends you a security token (like a FOB) which generates a code, or sends a text message to your phone which contains a code. The code becomes a second password to be entered in addition to your regular password. Each time you log in, the token or text message provides a brand new code. This makes it extremely difficult for an identity thief to access your account, even if they somehow obtained your regular password!
Use Strong Passwords
Even with a two factor identification system in place, there’s really no substitute for strong passwords. A 2016 Data Breach Investigation report by Verizon found that 63% of all confirmed data breaches involved weak or stolen passwords. Use a unique password for each account to prevent a quick and invasive attack on all of your accounts.
Make each password unique and long and strong. Use 8-12 characters, upper- and lowercase letters, and symbols. Or, use a phrase such as, “The Rain in $pain Falls Mainly on the Plain.”
Web browsers, programs, and operating systems continually provide updates that address known vulnerabilities and security issues to reduce the risk of being hacked. Keep your computers, tablets, phones, and software or apps up to date. Install anti-virus security software and anti-spyware software on all technology platforms, and make sure they are up to date.
Lock Down Phone Access To Accounts
Another fancy sounding term, but biometric security can be very effective. There are two types of biometrics that account custodians use: fingerprint scan and voice recognition. Did you know your voice has over 100 unique identifiers that a computer can recognize? Schwab’s Voice ID service uses voice biometrics technology to identify you by your unique voice. Once you have recorded a phrase, the system will remember your unique identifiers — a protection that is very hard for a thief to overcome.
Use Verbal Passwords
Add a verbal password to your account that will be required for anyone calling your custodian to access your account. This is an extra layer to defeat the hacker or scammer who has enough of your personal information to get by a custodian’s identification questions.
Use Mobile Apps
Accessing your accounts and performing transactions through an app your mobile device can actually be safer than from your home computer. For example, on iPhones, you can add fingerprint biometrics as an added security layer. Schwab’s Touch ID records all the ins and outs of your unique fingerprint — a measure that is very hard to defeat. Also, the latest mobile devices are very tough to hack. And the apps themselves can have great security features: Schwab’s Mobile App has strong encryption and masks your financial information so that a thief viewing your app cannot see it.
Don’t be fooled into giving out your information! Beware of people fishing (phishing) for information. Phishing scams are often in the form of urgent-sounding emails where you might be encouraged to click on a link in order to update personal information. Clicking on the link could potentially take you to a malicious website, where malware could infect your computer. Don’t click on suspicious links. Instead, type a known web address (e.g., https://www.schwab.com) directly into your web browser and navigate from there.
Additional Security Measures
For more measures you can take to protect your investment accounts, see our guide, “Protecting Your Identity, Data and Assets.” View/Download PDF Guide Here
At Blankinship & Foster, we help our clients manage financial risks from all angles, take appropriate measures to mitigate those risks, and integrate those measures into their overall financial planning. Let us show you how we can help make your future a more secure place.