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Client Conversations: Protect Yourself After a Data Breach

December 2018

Everybody needs to be vigilant now that data breaches and identify theft have become common occurrences.

Client Conversations gives financial advisors an easy way to communicate with clients on topics influencing financial markets; it highlights common investor behaviors and offers ways to address the challenges investors face. Share this article with your clients, and remember to follow your firm's policies that govern sharing content with clients and prospects.


You wake up, take a sip of your morning coffee, and turn on the TV. The news anchors report that another data breach occurred. Your stomach drops. Once again, your most personal information may be compromised.

Unfortunately, the financial ramifications can resonate for years if hackers take action on the information they’ve stolen or sell it on the dark web.

 

Taking precautions

The trend continued in 2018. For Americans, the Marriott Starwood breach loomed large. Cyber criminals took the personal information of more than 500 million guests of the hotel chain in a hack first announced in December 2018.1 In terms of individuals impacted, this wasn't even the largest amount of compromised records that year. That breach was the government of India's Aadhaar, which saw the private information of 1.1 billion people compromised.1

Source: CSO from IDG, 2018

 

Sadly, no matter what precautions you might take, the chance your personal information—Social Security number, driver’s license number, birthday, etc.—was or will be part of a data breach is high. If you’re feeling anxious, the first step is to remain calm. You’re not alone—many others were affected, too.

Here are the next three steps you can take ranked by effort and cost:

1. Minor: Keep an eye on your bank and credit accounts
Don’t throw that paper statement in the recycling bin or erase that email before you take a closer look at it each month. Regularly log in to review your activities online, too. You could even enable notifications on your phone’s credit card app to see when a purchase is made in real time.

2. Medium: Sign up for credit monitoring services
Would you rather have someone else take the time to review your finances? Fraud-protection specialists can watch for any out-of-the-ordinary behavior on your accounts and ensure you’re notified if new ones are opened in your name without your knowledge. They’ll alert you of any suspicious activity. Some are free, including Credit Karma, while others may require ongoing payment. Some companies, such as LifeLock, offer consumers their monitoring services for between $9.99 and $29.99 depending on what level of protection is sought. The four—yes, four—national credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis, also offer their own versions of these paid memberships.

3. Major: Freeze your credit
Pay a fee, and you can essentially shut down all access to your credit report. This requires reaching out to each of the four national credit reporting companies:

Equifax
https://www.equifax.com
866-640-2273

Experian
https://www.experian.com
888-397-3742

TransUnion
https://www.transunion.com
888-909-8872

Innovis
https://www.innovis.com
800-540-2505

Once this occurs, lenders will not have access to your credit. This prevents anyone from opening fraudulent accounts or applying for loans in your name. Depending where you live, freezing your account can cost anywhere from free to $10 at each agency. It will have no impact on current accounts.

Just make sure you’re not in the market for a home or car loan, applying for a credit card, or even looking for a new cell phone plan. As long as your accounts are frozen, no new accounts can be created—even if it’s you requesting them. To lift the freeze from your credit, simply reach back out to the four companies and pay an additional charge to turn things back on again. Four states—Kentucky, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota—automatically remove your credit freeze after seven years.

 

Seeking additional guidance

You may not be able to prevent every cyber attack, but your options to fight back are fairly straight forward. Be vigilant. Get help if you can. If all else fails, freeze your credit until you need to access it.

If you still have questions on what to do next, set up time to talk with your financial advisor. He or she can potentially be a great source of information if you’re debating what steps to take the next time your morning coffee is ruined with more bad news about data breaches.

Ongoing Safeguards

1. Only share personal data with trusted sources. Make sure you’re on a secure connection while sharing information online.

2. Use services such as PayPal, Apple Pay, or Android Pay to make purchases online more secure. Instead of passing along bank, credit, or debit card numbers and your contact information, these services maintain control of that data.

3. Check your credit with the major credit reporting companies regularly through the free Annual Credit Report program (AnnualCreditReport.com). Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free check every 12 months.

Client Conversations gives financial advisors an easy way to communicate with clients on topics influencing financial markets; it highlights common investor behaviors and offers ways to address the challenges investors face. Share this article with your clients, and remember to follow your firm's policies that govern sharing content with clients and prospects.


1 Source: "The 21 biggest data breaches of 2018,” Business Insider, 12/11/18

 

This material is provided for educational purposes only.

Hartford Mutual Funds may or may not be invested in the companies referenced herein; however, no particular endorsement of any product or service is being made.

This information should not be considered investment advice or a recommendation to buy/sell any security. In addition, it does not take into account the specific investment objectives, tax and financial condition of any specific person. This information has been prepared from sources believed reliable but the accuracy and completeness of the information cannot be guaranteed. This material and/or its contents are current at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. This material may not be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form or distributed in whole or in part, for any purpose, without the express written consent of Hartford Funds. 

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