By Christopher J. DeLong,
CAM, CMCA, AMS
Vice President Client
I was reminded recently to annually update my passwords help deter being a victim of a growing problem, cyber-crime. My reminder came by an unfortunate incident from a friend of mine; his financial advisor alerted him that someone had attempted to withdraw $150,000 from his retirement account. The thief had access to a whole host of his private information and some of his passwords. When I asked him when the last time he had updated his passwords was, he replied never.
Last year I was fortunate to attend a citizen’s academy hosted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI as well as the local police departments, host citizen’s academy’s to bring together business leaders to learn about what they do and how they do it, approximately thirteen weeks of great information. One of these sessions had to do with the growing evolution of fraud, especially cybercrime. We learned most of the cyber criminals reside in foreign countries, the live in houses stacked with computer equipment working on ways to separate you from your money. One of the largest and most successful criminal programs was the Ransom Virus. We were told that virtually everyone in the US either was a victim himself or herself or knew someone who was a victim of this crime….
The law enforcement experts provided some valuable suggestions to make it more difficult for criminals.
Passwords – all passwords should be changed annually… most of you like me have a thousand some-odd passwords from banking to my son’s baseball team. How are we expected to not only know these but also change them every year, right? They provided a great recommendation. First, try to categorize your passwords; Financial (banks, retirement, credit cards), online accounts (amazon, door dash etc.), social (Instagram, twitter, webpages) and family (jacks baseball team the vet etc.). Next, they recommended you develop a simple saying, something easily remembered like; “I am a great skier” to be used in part of your password, use the first or last letters in words like iAaGs. Next, add a number, do not try to use your birthday or other highly recognizable number, recommend something like your work anniversary in reverse “4102”. Next, add a unique identifier for the account such as facebook “fb” and finally a symbol *. The finished password would look something like iAaGs4102fb*. This give you a twelve-digit code, which can be remembered easily, widely used and updated annually.
Debit cards – professionals strongly recommend not using debit cards due to the high frequency of card skimmer fraud. Card skimmer devices can be easily attached to the outside or inside of a card reader at a; gas pump, atm or card reader at the convenient store. If you are like me, you generally check your account once a month before. If you see money missing then you have to dispute with the bank, the fact is you are out the money unless they can prove a crime has happened. Credit card companies have different policies for dealing with fraud, most of the time you are not out the money while they investigate. Honestly, after this class, I went home and locked our debit cards away.
The techniques are not a guarantee you will never be a victim, but it will sure make it more difficult for anyone to take advantage of you.