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Cyber Crime During the Holidays

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Fraudsters are at work all year long, but during the holidays they work especially hard to access our inboxes, computers, and sensitive information. This holiday season, we want to share a true story of fraud that impacted one of our clients, some common scams, and how Foster & Motley and Schwab are working to protect your information.

Christmas in Bangkok – a true story about fraudsters by Lucas Hail, MBA, CFP®
This year a group of people in Bangkok Thailand will have a very fine Christmas.  How do I know that?  Because one of our clients was a victim of wire fraud and a small part of their portfolio was wired to a bank there.  All’s well that ends well, so I will cut to the ending and tell you that Schwab credited their account for the amount that was stolen.  Though the client suffered significant anxiety along the way, they ultimately didn’t suffer a financial loss.

It started with an email hack, then progressed with a phishing email, and finally the fraudsters gaining remote access to the client’s personal computer where they harvested enough information to wire funds from an account. We are proud to say that the investigative team at Schwab and the team at Foster & Motley were able to help clean up the mess and work hand in hand with the client throughout the process. 

The read the full story, click HERE.

Common Scams
Email hacks and phishing emails are among the most common types of scams, because so much information passes through your email. Later we will discuss how we work to protect that information, but for now we want to call out a few of the specific examples of email messages fraudsters are using to gain access to your personally identifiable information (PII).

  • “Your package has been delivered” or is on the way – this scam is a current trend given all the holiday shopping that is taking place online this year. If you get an email letting you know that something was recently shipped or delivered, check with the seller or go back to your original confirmation email to check the tracking.  Don’t trust generic emails with shipping and delivery updates.  It is very easy for scammers to insert a dangerous link in place of the tracking information.
  • “There’s an issue with your account” – these scams often utilize bank or credit card company logos and look very legitimate. Again, they ‘get you’ by hiding a link to a website that will infect your system.  If you get something like this, go directly to the website of the company and login from there; don’t use any links in the email.
  • “Congrats – you won!” – there are many of these emails out there, convincing you to believe you won a gift card and you are just one click away from accepting it. In reality, you may be one click away from unknowingly giving someone access to your computer.

Remember - this can happen to anyone! Be diligent about what you click. As Luke mentioned in the article linked above, the receiving of a phishing email does not cause fraud, but clicking on the links or attachments can start the chain of fraudulent events. When in doubt, do not click! Stop and try to find another way to verify or access the information.

How Foster & Motley is working to protect you 
We take protecting your information seriously. Our employees vigilantly monitor for suspicious email and account activity. We train our team regularly on identifying and safeguarding against phishing email attempts and other types of fraud. We share sensitive information through an encrypted email service, allowing clients and trusted partners to set up their own unique password to access secure files when they are sent via email.  Our Foster & Motley app and the My Holdings website both offer two-factor authentication, which gives clients an additional layer of protection on their accounts. 

Schwab, our trusted custodian partner, takes ongoing proactive measures to help protect our clients and keep their data secure. Schwab guarantees 100% coverage of any losses in Schwab accounts due to unauthorized activity. They offer a variety of security options, including security alerts, advanced authentication, and voice ID for added layers of protection. Visit SchwabSafe® for more details on the offerings as well as tips for staying safe online.

Additionally, we share opportunities to help secure other aspects of your financial life, such as freezing your credit and setting up an Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN) with the IRS.  The IP Pin program was previously available only to those who were victims of fraud, but starting in 2021, the IRS is permitting anyone to opt-in (just be sure to share the PIN with your tax preparer!) These are proactive steps to prevent fraudulent activity from occurring.  We also suggest checking your credit reports regularly – if an account has been opened using your personal information, you will know sooner than later and can get it closed and reported.

In the coming months we will be hosting a series of webinars containing tips and tools for increasing your cyber security. For immediate education, feel free to watch or read about the series we did in 2018 (linked HERE).

If you have concerns or think you have been a victim of fraud, contact your advisor immediately. If it occurs outside of business hours, we suggest contacting Schwab so the team can lock your accounts and begin working on a solution. Please reach out if you have any questions, and we will be glad to provide help or connect you with our cyber security resource, PBSI. Please feel free to download this PDF that contains a summary of how we protect client information and a checklist for what to do if you think you have fallen victim to a fraudster.