Your assets are valuable. So, to maintain them requires attention to protecting your identity and that of your loved ones and a firm position that this is a family responsibility.
All family members should be aware of the various threats and scams and actively work to minimize the risks. Those risks, after all, loom large: In recent years, cyber security and threats to personal data have become hot topics, reflecting the fact that everyone is at risk.
So, if you are not educating yourself, your children and your older family members on how to minimize the risks, it’s imperative that you start. These risks are real and the consequences can be devastating.
Studies have shown that families of means, given the complexity of their wealth management, are more often targeted by identity thieves. With high net worth families among the most vulnerable to information security fraud, it is essential that you have a strong information-protection strategy in place.
Information shared on social networks, for instance, can often provide identity thieves who do a little groundwork all the information they need to breach your privacy. Have you ever tried to see how much you can find out about yourself or family members online? Give it a try. You’ll be alarmed.
Within families, children and elderly members, in particular, are primary targets for scammers: Young children and teens heading off to college should understand the importance and sensitivity of their social security number (SSN). Consider setting up credit in your young child’s name so that you can run yearly credit checks. Children with no credit established are easy targets for identity thieves who may use a child’s SSN fraudulently. All family members should review their credit report at least once a year.
It’s imperative that you start educating yourself, your children and your older family members on how to minimize the risks.
Mobile devices are convenient, but they are especially susceptible to loss, theft and other security breaches. Treat your mobile devices with the utmost care. Learn, for example, about your options for a lost or stolen device, to keep your information safe.
Additional caution should be exercised when you use public, open wi-fi networks. If you frequently use open networks, consider VPN software. Criminals can set up their own open hot spot or operate within an existing one to collect sensitive data and hack your device.
Everyone in your family should know the basics of identity protection and online safety and, if not, read up on the topic. A few extra tips to mention are: Use fake answers for security questions that you will remember, instead of real information. Use the credit card option even for debit cards to avoid entering a PIN. Consider RFID blocking for your wallet or individual cards. And look into identity theft protection services.
In addition, keep your devices protected against viruses, malware, ransomware and other such threats, with current software. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication where that’s an option. Monitor your credit cards and financial accounts closely. Be diligent in this battle!
There are so many scams happening today in person and by phone, email, mail—you name it. You should know about them. At least make sure everyone in your family knows not to reveal anything personal to an unknown person on the phone, no matter what that caller claims.
A good way to stay informed is to sign up for free scam alerts from www.ftc.gov/ scams, and visit other helpful sites, like www.scambusters.org.
You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to defend your family from exploitation. We are all potential targets, but, if you actively protect your information and become aware of the risks, you may avoid becoming a victim. There are many great resources online to help you understand the risks in today’s world and actions to take. It’s worth your time to explore them.
Marie A. Moore is a financial advisor with the Wealth Management division of Morgan Stanley in Dallas, Texas. The views expressed herein are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC., www.sipc.org. Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor(s) engage Worth to feature this profile. Marie A. Moore may only transact business in states where she is registered or excluded or exempted from registration, morganstanleyfa.com/themooregroup. Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where Marie A. Moore is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration. Certified Financial Planner of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP (with flame design) in the U.S. CRC1677319 01/17.
This article was originally published in the February–April 2017 issue of Worth.