In light of regular news of consumer data theft, some people remain hesitant to use the internet for banking, investing, and other financial transactions. Writing checks, stamping envelopes, and receiving statements in the mail seems safer. Perhaps surprisingly, experts agree that today, your personal information is much more vulnerable to theft if it’s on paper and traveling through the postal system to your mailbox.
By setting up online accounts instead, you’ll save time, money, trees, and better keep track of your financial life. Whether you decide to go online or not, the reality is that your information is already on the internet. Protecting it as effectively as possible is paramount.
At Bristlecone, we implement the best online practices to protect our clients' assets and privacy. We thought we would share the tools we use in our professional and personal lives.
Everyone should be using a password manager on both desktops and mobile devices in today's day and age. Programs like LastPass and 1Password help you create unique, complex, and randomly generated passwords for each of your online accounts. They are then stored in a single encrypted location accessible with a master password (ask us how to create one that is secure and easy to remember). This helps reduce the risks from using the same password for multiple sites or writing passwords down in a notebook that could be lost or stolen. Password managers also serve as excellent estate planning tools. Many have built-in features to allow a trusted contact (such as your spouse or child) to access the password database in an emergency or after you're gone.
Multifactor authentication (MFA)
MFA is a system that requires more than one method to verify your identity. When you sign into the account for the first time on a new device or application (like a web browser), you first enter your username and password. Then, you need a second "factor" to prove who you are. It is usually done by having a randomly generated code sent via a mobile app (such as Google Authenticator), email, or text message. You should have this feature enabled on all your financial, email, social media, and personal accounts when available. Although not foolproof, it will significantly reduce the chances of someone gaining unauthorized access to your online information, even if a password has been compromised.
While there are plenty of useful paid credit monitoring services on the market, many are overpriced. If you decide to purchase one, shop around. Thankfully there are free tools available, such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, that will provide free credit scores and information from your credit reports. While it's always a good idea to check your actual reports for free once a year via the government-authorized annualcreditreport.com, free credit monitoring tools are a convenient way to check more frequently. They also will alert you if a new account has been opened in your name, or an inquiry has been made on one of your credit reports (a useful tool to stop fraud before it becomes a bigger problem).
Also known as a security freeze, this free tool lets you restrict access to your credit report with all 3 credit agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion), making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That's because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can't see your report, they may not extend the credit. After receiving your freeze request, each credit bureau will provide you with a unique PIN or password. You will need it if you need to lift the freeze to apply for a credit card, a loan, or to rent an apartment.
Social Security and IRS online accounts
Finally, we recommend setting up an online account with both the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. Checking these at least twice a year will allow you to catch potential mistakes and suspicious activity. Identity thieves may claim your tax refund or file for benefits in your name, for instance.
Even using all these tools, you may still fall victim to cyber fraud or identity theft. However, it will make things much harder for criminals, will typically alert you to suspicious activity earlier, and allow you to limit the impact.
WORRIED ABOUT YOUR ONLINE PRACTICES? GIVE US A CALL.
One of Bristlecone Value Partners’ principles is to communicate frequently, openly and honestly. We believe that our clients benefit from understanding our investment philosophy and process. Our views and opinions regarding investment prospects are "forward looking statements," which may or may not be accurate over the long term. While we believe we have a reasonable basis for our appraisals, and we have confidence in our opinions, actual results may differ materially from those we anticipate. Information provided in this blog should not be considered as a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security. You can identify forward looking statements by words like "believe," "expect," "anticipate," or similar expressions when discussing particular portfolio holdings. We cannot assure future results and achievements. You should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements, which speak only as of the date of the blog entry. We disclaim any obligation to update or alter any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Our comments are intended to reflect trading activity in a mature, unrestricted portfolio and might not be representative of actual activity in all portfolios. Portfolio holdings are subject to change without notice. Current and future performance may be lower or higher than the performance quoted in this blog.
References to indexes and benchmarks are hypothetical illustrations of aggregate returns and do not reflect the performance of any actual investment. Investors cannot invest in an index and returns do not reflect the deduction of advisory fees or other trading expenses. There can be no assurance that current investments will be profitable. Actual realized returns will depend on, among other factors, the value of assets and market conditions at the time of disposition, any related transaction costs, and the timing of the purchase.
Economic factors, market conditions, and investment strategies will affect the performance of any portfolio and there can be no assurance that a portfolio will match or outperform any particular index or benchmark. Past Performance is not indicative of future results. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss; changes in investment strategies, contributions or withdrawals may materially alter the performance and results of a portfolio. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that any specific investment will be suitable or profitable for a client's investment portfolio.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and it may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.