Hackers can wreak havoc on your financial life. You should know how to thwart them.
Ignorance is rarely, if ever, bliss and protecting your identity online is no place to be flippant. In fact, the Web is one place you should be the most paranoid. My firm spends multiple hours weekly, studying strategies to protect our clients’ wealth. One large area of attention is identity theft.
Many people seem to believe the attacks have diminished, but these have increased dramatically. In 2011, the Internet Crime Complaint Center , a part of the Department of Justice, received over 300,000 complaints of online crimes by consumers.
As we all became more comfortable with computers, our natural skeptical tendencies subsided. The hackers did not subside. They have become more sophisticated.
In multiple examples provided at a recent symposium I attended, professionals demonstrated how hackers may gain access to your accounts and then lie in wait for as long as 18 months. You send out tidbits of information in social media and emails, and the hackers collect the data until they have the entire story. Then they pounce.
This warning isn’t just for individuals. Corporations, both big and small, deal with cyber security problems, as well, yet not all companies recognize the danger. According to a study by Deloitte  published in January, 88% of companies do not think they are vulnerable to a cyber threat. The report also says that more than 50% of the companies surveyed had an online security incident in the previous 12 months.
Hewlett Packard and the Ponemon Institute  report that, in 2012, the average cost of cyber crime to a U.S. company was $8.9 million, which is up 38% from 2010. This figure is expected to rise as the technology hackers penetrate more and more personal and corporate private information. Hackers are both more patient and more effective.
Luckily, there are things we can do to better protect ourselves. Common sense and old-fashion suspicion goes a long way when it comes to Internet safety.
When shopping online, it’s often safe to stick to the well-known retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart, or websites that use trusted third-party verification services like TRUSTe  or SSL Certificate . Try not to use the same password for multiple websites because if one site becomes compromised then that might open up other sites that you use.
Although it is convenient, be mindful when accessing wireless Internet (WiFi) in public places. Scammers can monitor what you access online if you don’t take the proper precautions. As always, make sure you use a reliable anti-virus and, if possible, firewall software on your computer.
These layers of protection aren’t perfect, but they can provide some peace of mind. While the Internet has its dangers, it’s still possible to surf it safely and securely.
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Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, CFP, is the managing partner of the Financial Enhancement Group LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisory firm in Indiana. He teaches financial planning at Purdue University and is the host of Consider This with Big Joe Clark, found on WQME and iTunes. He is a Registered Principal offering Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services through World Equity Group, Inc, member FINRA/SIPC. Big Joe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , or (765) 640-1524. Follow him on Twitter at @Big Joe_Clark and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/FinancialEnhancementGroup .
Securities offered through and by World Equity Group Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services can be offered by the Financial Enhancement Group (FEG) or World Equity Group. FEG and World Equity Group are separately owned and operated.
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