Cybersecurity Awareness Month – Protecting Against Imposter Scams

October 24, 2023

October is “Cybersecurity Awareness Month” and a great time to revisit important safety reminders to protect yourself against common fraud and cyber-attack attempts, especially around finances.

“Imposter scams” are quite prevalent, so we are focusing this post on how to identify and protect against them.

An imposter scam is where a fraudster impersonates a trusted individual, business, or organization in order to convince their target to transfer money and/or provide personal information to them. These scams have been on the rise in recent years and are currently the most commonly reported fraud according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Because these scams can include fraudsters impersonating individuals from trusted organizations like Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and other financial or banking institutions (even our own advisory firm) we wanted to share more information about how these scams occur, and the steps that you can take to protect yourself and your financial information.

How does an imposter scam work?

Imposter scams can begin a multitude of ways, with fraudsters using some of the following common strategies:

  • Contacting you via text, email, phone call, online advertisement, or social media post.
  • Claiming to be a security officer or technical support for a trusted company, such as Apple or Microsoft.
  • Pretending to be an employee of a trusted financial institution like Schwab or Fidelity.
  • Asking you to download software and/or request access to your computer remotely.
  • Sending you a text message or email with a link or attachment asking you to approve or decline a transaction, enter or set up new login credentials, or take some other action for your account(s).

Steps you can take to protect your accounts:

To protect your accounts and your personal information it is important to look out for red flags and take the following steps.

  1. Verify the legitimacy of the organization or individual trying to reach you, particularly in the event that you did not initiate the contact. Should you have any doubts, contact the financial institution directly (using a phone number directly from the institutions website, or account statement, etc.), or in the case that it is related to your Schwab or Fidelity accounts, you can reach out to your advisor or client service team.
  2. Never assume that you are talking with an institution or company based on the email address or the name appearing on caller ID. Phone calls, texts and emails can be made to appear as though they are coming from a trusted organization when they are in fact from a fraudster.
  3. Use extreme caution and take time to research if you receive a request to send money urgently.
  4. Double check the URL of the website or link sent to you by email to validate it is a legitimate website address.
  5. Again, when in doubt contact the organization by phone using a number you know is correct to confirm any requests verbally.

You can find more steps to take to protect yourself against cybersecurity risks as well as actions our team takes to protect our clients’ financial information in our blog post published last Fall.

Please reach out to your Advisor and/or our Client Service team if you suspect that you have been involved in a fraud attempt or if you have any questions. We are here to help you keep your financial and personal information as safe as possible.

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