Wire fraud is a serious problem. As hackers become more sophisticated and hacking software becomes cheaper and more widely available, instances of wire fraud due to compromised email accounts are increasing. According to one study conducted by J.P. Morgan last year, between 2013 and 2014 the number of wire fraud incidents nearly doubled.
Financial institutions continue to adapt their policies in response to these attacks. For example, you may have noticed that more and more banks and brokerages are now insisting on call-backs to confirm wire requests, no matter how the request is received. At JDJ, concern for the security and safety of our clients’ assets is paramount. Therefore, we, too, have recently modified our policies with respect to wire transfer requests.
Click here for a recent FDIC publication on the topic of cyber security. It contains a lot of information you may find informative and helpful, including a checklist enumerating ten things you can do to help protect yourself online.
Here are some suggestions gleaned from this document and other publications we’ve reviewed on the topic:
- Make sure your computers are running up to date versions of anti-virus and malware software.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi or public computers to connect to banking or other sites that contain personal information.
- If in response to a bona-fide request you need to email personal information (like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers), never do so without first protecting the email with encryption technology.
- Use strong passwords, change them frequently, and keep them in a secure place accessible only to you and key family members and/or advisors.
- Don’t make personal information (e.g. full birth date, address, vacation plans, etc.) available on social networking sites, and make use of any privacy settings available on those sites.
- Be very wary of emails that contain attachments or links, especially if they are unsolicited (even if they “appear” to be from someone you know). Examine the sender’s email address carefully (it may look correct, but one letter or number may be different); hover your mouse over links to display the actual website or email address to which the link will lead. Be aware of poor grammar, spelling, and formatting in emails that may otherwise look “official.”
- Be very cautious of any emailed request from a financial institution.Financial institutions will never ask you to provide sensitive personal information by email. Even if the email looks official and contains a link to the institution’s web site, a best practice is not to click on the link but, rather, open your web browser, manually enter the web site address, and log into your account that way.
Many years ago, Ben Franklin coined the phrase “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He was supposedly referring to fire safety, but the idiom can easily be applied to any situation where a little extra care could prevent a lot of damage, including cyber security.