At a recent meeting with one of our long time client families we were asked for some tips on how to best maintain and protect their online profile in this ever changing digital world. “How do we manage all of our usernames and passwords and what should we be doing to stay safe?” After the Equifax data breach last fall, we were all on high alert. Our team wrote several blog posts on identity theft and safety. Now that the headlines have faded, so too have some of the proactive measures that we see clients taking. Our team of financial planners put together a short list of everyday things you can be doing to add an extra level of protection to your online activity.
1. Lock It Up
Whether it’s your mailbox, your phone or of course, your computer, lock up the areas where sensitive documents and information is most commonly stored. Set a password (or better yet, a fingerprint lock) on your smart phone. Same goes for your computer and keep it changing (every quarter is a good rule of thumb). Overwhelmed about remembering your password like our client? Try a song lyric. If you’re a big Journey fan, how about “Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.” That could give you the password: DsbHo2tf! Easy to remember; hard to crack.
2. Shred It Good
Don’t just toss your documents in the garbage. Shred them. And don’t just shred them. Micro shred them. Not only does this process dice your documents into ½ inch scraps, but it will also provide all the confetti you need to celebrate keeping your identity safe. If you’re one of our clients who isn’t into confetti, you are welcome to bring your unneeded personal documents to the office and we will include them as part of our secure shred service.
3. Wi-Fi The Safe Way
Never trust open Wi-Fi networks that do not require a password. This is particularly true if you are traveling abroad, where 1 in 5 travelers is hit by cybercrime. Hackers can set up an imposter network with a name very similar to your hotel’s network. In addition, using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) will encrypt your data which will reduce your chances of being hacked.
4. Trust but Verify
Actually, don’t trust. Just verify. Scammers are getting pretty creative and emails, paper mailings and phone calls can appear to come from legitimate sources. If you receive any contact that requests personal information, reach out to a number you know to be correct and confirm the request. To stay up to date with the latest scams, including what seems to be most popular in your geographic area, check out the AARP Fraud Map. You can also report any fraud alerts you’re aware of. At the moment, it’s not that surprising that scammers are posing as IRS agents calling to request taxes owed. Another is an infamous phishing scheme that hacks into your computer, replacing the Microsoft IT Support number with that of a hacker who then holds your data for a ransom. If you ever come across anything suspicious like this, we encourage you to reach out to your tech savvy friends and trusted advisors to help before you make any decisions. It’s not uncommon for our clients to forward along suspicious emails they receive as a helpful second set of eyes.
5. Create a Digital Inventory
Our clients were wondering how in the world their heirs would manage to sort through their digital inventory, find usernames, passwords and the rest. They admitted they don’t have a huge online presence, but know that even one or two missing logins or pin numbers could create real headaches for their executor. If you want to be nice to your kids (or whomever is in charge of your estate), considering completing a digital asset inventory like the one we created here. This can give your heirs the tools to help protect you now and later. With sensitive material like this, it’s imperative once complete, it is saved in a locked fire proof box, safe or safety deposit box. If you’re comfortable with technology, consider using a password storage device like Zoho, Keeper Security or True Key (here’s a handy comparison of some of your options). You remember one, master password (don’t forget the aforementioned song lyric clue) that gains access to all of your passwords. If you go this route, be sure you keep that master password on paper somewhere under lock and key.