Financial Planning and Identity Theft Prevention

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Financial Planning Security and Identity Theft Prevention

You should take the potential for financial identity theft very seriously, as a threat to your financial security. Identity theft can sometimes entail loss of your financial assets, whether small or large. However, very often it requires taking a very large amount of your time to rectify an identity theft breach. Given the interconnectedness of the personal asset and personal credit system, any breech of your financial identity can have very time consuming ramifications, and the value of your time can many times exceed the value of the money that might have been stolen from you or from some firm through your stolen identity. Furthermore, once your identity is “out on the black market” you are more vulnerable to subsequent attacks. Taking certain steps to prevent an occurrence of identity theft in the first place is prudent. This is why identity theft prevention is a key, but often overlooked, component of a prudent financial plan.

Protection Practices for Sensitive Information and Passwords on Banking, Mutual Fund, Investment, and other Financial Websites

As you set up Internet accessible financial accounts, be very careful with your financial information. Furthermore, as you utilize the Internet it is important that you use what are known as “strong” passwords with more characters (combinations of letters, numbers, special symbols, upper and lower cases). Vary your passwords from one account to another. Never use the same password across your important financial sites. It is much better to maintain list of different passwords that you carefully protect at home, rather than to use a single weak or even strong password across various financial websites. Furthermore, it is a good practice to vary your user name from one account to another. In effect, different user names and different passwords in combination make your identity on any single site much more secure.

Therefore, it is recommended by security authorites that all your financial passwords for your on-line accounts be both strong and different. Many identity thieves are clever and sophisticated. Furthermore, there is a cyber underground and internet black market where compromised identity information is shared, bought, and sold. This cyber crime underground stretches around the world. When your user names and passwords are both strong and different, you could avoid a single identity breach from cascading across your other financial accounts.

Avoid using more sensitive information, such as mother’s maiden name or your city/state/date of birth, for example, as your answer to security challenge questions on any ordinary, non-financial website.  Reserve this information only for those sites that hold your financial accounts and your financially sensitive information. Simply assume that the vast majority of websites have absolute amateurs in charge of their website systems architecture and security. While this may not be true of any given website that attempts to collect sensitive information from you, assuming that the site security is poor is a wiser assumption, because you never know which site could be the weak link. Systems administrators of financial web sites tend to be much more sophisticated concerning security affairs, but they certainly are not infallible. Furthermore, all it takes is one corrupt employee at firm with strong or weak web systems security, to circumvent any protections that are in place.

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Deal with Financial Services Company and Non-Financial Websites

With less important and non-financial web sites that require registration, you could use the same username and the same easily remembered strong password. However, it would be very wise never provide these sites with any additional information that is accurate about your name, address, phones, the security challenge answers above and other potentially sensitive information. Always assume that security on any of these “unimportant” web sites could be breached and that your password information could be used to access other accounts elsewhere. By drawing a strong distinction between the user names and passwords that you use on financial and other sites that are important to you versus those unimportant sites requiring registration information, you can in part firewall yourself from security breaches in the less well managed part of the Internet. Why supply via perhaps a forum registration to some hobby web site your actual name, address, etc. And, certainly do not supply your date of birth or mother’s maiden name as the answer to the security challenge questions. If that forum website’s membership database is breached you will have supplied key information needed to breach the financial accounts that are really important to you.

Access to your personal email system or systems should require a strong and different password. Stored email messages can contain passwords for which a thief could search. Furthermore, on your home computer systems, you should always have a fully functioning firewall and up-to-date anti-virus/anti-spyware software that is always on.

Take these issues seriously. Cyber crime is worldwide, cooperative, and increasing sophisticated. Since it is highly profitable and risks of criminal prosecution are low, do you think this problem is going to go away. The prudent thing to do is to keep identity theft away from your door, if you can.

Avoid Phishing and Other Impersonation Attacks

Avoid phishing of all kinds. For example, never provide any personal data of any kind in response to a link provided to you via email. Always ensure that the URL of the site you are using is the correct URL. If you are ever in doubt, type in the URL yourself or search for the site on Google and then enter the site with the link from Google.

Furthermore, never enter any financial information or other sensitive information into any website that does not use the secure “https” protocol (note the “s” added to “http”). When buying over the Internet with a credit card or otherwise, if a site does not use https, do not use it. Use only one credit card when buying on the web. If that credit card is compromised, you can close that credit account number and replace the card.

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