Monday, June 5, 2017

Protecting your investment and insurance accounts

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Financial Planner™

Identity fraudsters look for the big score. 

Using your credit card to buy high-end stuff is okay and can support a drug habit or improve a standard of living.  However, they are looking for the big score. 

 Their objective is to steal your “serious” money -- your retirement accounts and insurance cash values. 

 How secure are those assets?

As you probably know, your personally identifiable information (PII) is easily obtainable and can be purchased in bulk on the internet.  It is often stolen as a result of a data breach, or used by a dishonest employee at a company where you conduct business.  

Fraudsters can use this information to make credit card purchases.  Most of us have had someone make unauthorized purchases using our credit card.  By comparison, these are pretty benign and usually easy to reverse.   More difficult to fix is when new credit accounts are established and statements are mailed to the fraudster’s mail drop. 

Still, these types of identity theft are survivable if they are caught in time.  It might take as long as three years to clear them up and you will forever be explaining to employers, insurers, banks, etc. that you were a victim of identity theft.   

But, if the crook is using a form of “synthetic identity theft” and goes on for a long time, it will change your life as you know it.  It will not be pretty.

I give free seminars to help individuals and small businesses avoid these problems.

Fraudsters look for the big score.  So, once a fraudster has your PII’s (your's is out there already), how do you protect your serious money?  You should ask some tough questions about your investment and insurance company that is keeping and investing your serious money.  Be direct and do not accept evasion to your direct questions.  Here are a few areas of concern:

Security questions and answers
Answers to your security questions often are found on your Facebook and other social media pages. Don’t celebrate your birthday on social media.  Knowing your date of birth is a key step in stealing your ID.  If they want your mother’s maiden name, invent one.  This security is so lame; I would suggest that you consider doing business elsewhere. 
Username and password requirements
If your username is your email address, your password can easily be cracked.  Software is available to crack passwords.  Cheap! Google search the topic yourself.
Secure email
How secure is the investment or insurance firm’s email?
Customer verification
How do they verify your ID? 
Address change
Who has the authority to change your address?  What is the process?  By the way, if you fail to receive US mail for more than two days, contact the Postal Inspector to find out why.  Forwarding your mail is often the first step in identity fraud. 
Your agent or stockbroker
Does he/she have authority to change your address, make distributions, etc?  Did you check his/her background?  Attend one of my “Is your investment advisor a crook” seminars and find out.
Systems surveillance
Are they “really” on the lookout for suspicious irregularities across all their accounts every day, all day. Will they promptly alert you promptly if they spot a problem that could affect you?  How long did Yahoo wait to notify customers of their data breach?  Wasn’t that over a year?
Fraud detection
Will they monitor your accounts for suspicious transactions and unusual behavior to ensure that they are authentic and legitimate?
Security at our branches and offices
How secure is your agent or stockbroker's records?  Who has access to your stuff?  Could your identity be stolen if someone had a copy of an insurance or investment account application?
Restricted access to data
Does the insurance or investment company limit access to systems containing customer data to only those employees who need it to conduct business? We continually monitor access and only grant it to new people on a case-by-case basis. How was it possible for a Fishers, Indiana insurance agent to steal the identity of 3,000 of his employer’s customers?

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