Broker Check
Keep Your Personal Information Safe

Keep Your Personal Information Safe

February 16, 2024

We continue to read articles in the news about data breaches from large and small companies, which have resulted in confidential personal information being stolen by cyber criminals. Our clients have told us their personal stories about their experiences with scams and compromised credit cards. In today’s world, we believe that it is important for everyone to be aware of the risks in this area and take steps to minimize your risks whenever possible.

In the blog this month, we will discuss:

  • Data Breaches Continue with Large Companies
  • PBI Data Breach for Clients with Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Security on Your PC and Phone
  • How to Protect Your Personal Data
  • Protecting Your Credit Cards
  • Identity Theft Protection Services
  • Options for Secure Data Transfer Available from FJP
  • Keeping Client Data Kept Secure at FJP

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Data Breaches Continue with Large Companies

Data breaches occur when criminal hackers access confidential information for members and clients stored on the computer systems of large corporations. The information held by large corporations can include names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, and even credit card information. Sometimes, the information held at these companies is without our knowledge or expressed approval.

Companies are required to report to people when hackers have accessed their confidential data. We regularly see articles in the news about new data breaches. Our local newspaper, The San Jose Mercury News, just ran a story with the headline:

            Blue Shield of California member’s data stolen – a ‘gold mine for thieves’ 1

In this case, Blue Shield said the data breach resulted from a cyberattack on a widely used software tool from a third party used for sending and receiving data. In early January 2024, Comcast announced a data breach of information for 36 million customers. On January 29, Yahoo Finance ran a story with the headline:

            “Mother of All Data Breaches – 26 billion Records Leaked, Users of LinkedIn, Venmo and More Panic Over Increased Cybercrime Risk." 2

This large leak included twenty brands over 100 billion leaked records, with the largest being Tencent’s 1.5 billion. Other brands affected include LinkedIn, X, Venmo, Canva, Apollo and Adobe.

It might seem that smaller companies are more at risk for data breaches because they have much smaller resources to defend against them. But large companies are also at risk as they are a bigger target for hackers and cybercriminals. Everyone is at risk of a data breach or cyber-attack, no matter how small or large the company is.

Here are some of the largest data breaches in US history: 3

Largest Data Breaches in History - to date!

As you can see from the chart above, even the largest companies like Microsoft, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Adobe, Marriott, Comcast, and Target have fallen victim to data breaches. These large companies must do better in the future. We all depend on them to protect our information.

This author has not been spared either! Several years ago, we used a credit card to purchase support for computer equipment in our office. Not long after, we read that the same company had a data breach of confidential client information. So, we started monitoring charges on this credit card on a regular basis. Within 2 months, the credit card was compromised, and there was a charge from the criminals on the card. We immediately contacted the credit card company, canceled the card, and stopped all payments. We did not lose any money, but we are pretty sure the card was compromised due to the data breach at the computer company. 

PBI Data Breach for Clients with Long-Term Care Insurance

Pension Benefits Information, LLC (PBI) notified some of our clients in August that they had a data breach. PBI is a company used by some insurance companies, including Continental Casualty Company (CNA). PBI uses the MOVEit Transfer software provided by Progress Software. A MOVEit Transfer server was hacked in May 2023, and the hackers downloaded client information from the server. The ironic thing is PBI says that what people can do about it is “remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud.” Yes, it is true that we should all remain vigilant, but hopefully, these companies will be more vigilant against the hacking of their systems in the future. 

Security on Your PC and Phone

Most people use a computer with a Windows operating system from Microsoft or the iOS operating system on a Mac Computer from Apple. Microsoft and Apple continually roll out operating system updates to fix security problems. You must install these security updates to your operating system as soon as they become available.

The same thing is true for your phone. It is important to keep your operating system up-to-date and install new security updates as soon as they are available. A major operating system update for Apple iPhone users, iSO 17.1.1, has just been rolled out. Very quickly after the rollout, Apple announced that installing the new update 17.1.2 immediately was important to fix several security flaws.4

If you have a computer or phone that is too old to install the latest version of the operating systems from Microsoft or Apple, then we strongly recommend you replace your computer or phone and buy a new one. For example, the latest version of the Windows operating system is Version 11. If your computer is too old to install Windows 11, we recommend upgrading to a newer one. 

How to Protect Your Personal Data

We have noticed that since the COVID-19 Pandemic, the amount of online hacking and fraud has increased significantly. It makes it even more important that we all do everything possible to protect our confidential information.

Here are five suggestions to protect your personal data:

  1. Use strong passwords for your online accounts, especially your email. More than twelve characters, with an upper case, lower case, and special characters. And be sure to update the password periodically.
  2. Use 2-factor Authentication. This should enabled for all financial sites, your email, and any other sites that store your confidential personal information.
  3. NEVER send confidential personal information over regular email. It is best to assume that the bad buys can read anything you send over regular email. Financial account numbers, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and all your other personal information should NEVER be included in regular emails.
  4. Make sure you have a computer that is running the most current version of the operating system from Microsoft or Apple.
  5. Install all the security updates for your PC and phone as soon as they are available.

 Protecting Your Credit Cards

Credit card fraud has grown substantially since the beginning of the pandemic. This can happen while traveling or when using your credit card on different online shopping sites.

Here are four suggestions to consider to protect your credit cards:

  1. When traveling to foreign countries, consider making purchases of small items with cash rather than credit cards. For example, on a cruise to Mexico earlier in the year, we chose to buy small items in the stores with cash rather than using our credit cards.
  2. Have a separate credit card with a small limit of only a few thousand dollars to use in situations where you think there might be a higher risk of fraud. This could include traveling, but also for online shopping sites that are not from the largest companies.
  3. Watch the transactions on your credit cards regularly to make sure all the transactions look legitimate.
  4. If you have multiple credit cards, you can connect all your credit cards to your Financial Journey Partners Client Portal, where all of your transactions are downloaded each night. This allows you to monitor the transactions from all your credit cards in one place.

There is nothing that can eliminate your risk from credit card fraud. But you can take steps to minimize your risk and monitor the transactions on your cards to quickly detect a fraudulent transaction so you can immediately call the credit card company to stop the transaction and further use of your credit card. 

Identity Theft Protection Services

In the PBI data breach, they offered the people affected 24 months of free Identity Monitoring services by Kroll. We have never heard of this company before, so we cannot make any judgment on the quality of this service. LifeLock by Norton is one of the best-known companies to provide identity monitoring services. We have used them and found them to work well. We have not done an evaluation of the different companies that provide identity protection monitoring, so we cannot recommend a specific company. But we can say for the small cost of this type of service, we recommend you consider buying this type of service. 

Options for Secure Data Transfer Available from FJP

There are different options available to transfer confidential personal information in a secure manner.

At Financial Journey Partners, we use three methods:

  1. OneDrive – we use this from Microsoft. Clients can drag and drop files into a secure location that we can retrieve. We pull it out of that drive the day we receive the notice it is in the drive.
  2. Vault in your Client Portal – Clients can place a file into their secure vault in their client portal (in the Shared Files section), and then a Wealth Manager can retrieve the file. It is also possible for the Wealth Manager to place a file in the Vault, and then clients can retrieve the file.
  3. Secure Email – with our secure email system, the email messages are encrypted, and clients can view and reply to them by logging into a secure website.

It is also possible to mail physical documents between clients and their Wealth Manager. We prefer not to do this if we can avoid it because we have seen cases of documents stolen from the mailbox at clients' homes. We try to keep all the information transferred through the three secure methods above. 

Don’t Send Confidential Information Over Email

Occasionally, we get clients sending us emails with confidential personal information included. Clients send us confidential personal information that includes social security numbers, account numbers, bank account numbers, bank routing numbers, and other similar personal information.

Regular email is not secure!

It is best to assume that anything sent over regular email could go straight to a crook, and they could start using the information against you. We try to regularly remind clients about this, but if we see clients send confidential personal information to us by email, we will quickly remind them that you should never, ever, ever send confidential personal information over email.

As a reminder, we have very secure methods of sharing confidential personal information with clients. They include:

  • Storing the information in the Vault in your client portal. Your client portal is very secure and can be used to move information back and forth between you and your Wealth Manager. With your approval using DocuSign, we can also share your information with other professionals (estate attorneys, tax professionals, etc.) using your client portal.
  • Documents in DocuSign for your signature, a secure system.
  • We use the secure Microsoft OneDrive as a method for clients to drag and drop files that are sent to us securely and stored securely. We cannot send information out to clients using OneDrive. It is a one-way system where only information can be sent to us.
  • We also use a secure email system that requires a login with a username and password so that emails can be sent securely and then viewed in a secure portal. The emails can also have a reply sent back to us securely through this system.

Also, we want to remind everyone that we cannot accept instructions for trades or send clients money based on an email or voicemail message. Just let us know by email or voicemail that you would like to talk, and we will call you to take your instructions verbally over the phone. This is a rule in our industry, plus we want to avoid any confusion or chance for error. 

Keeping Client Data Kept Secure at FJP

At Financial Journey Partners, we work extremely hard to keep the data secure for our clients. We take many steps to keep our client data secure. If we were to list them all here specifically, that would make us less secure, but we want you to know that this is an area that we discuss and work on regularly.

Our IT consultant helps us implement best practices in cybersecurity. Our team members attend cybersecurity online training courses and our partner, Mutual Advisors, also assists us to make sure we are following industry best practices.

If you have more questions about cybersecurity or how to keep your confidential personal information safe, call your Wealth Manager, and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

  



Our New Book is Now Available on Amazon


Elaine and Scott Manley's 
new book Enjoy the Journey – Successful Retirement Strategies and Stories, is now available on Amazon in three formats: Kindle eBook, Softcover, and Hardcover.

If you would like a hardcopy version of the book, contact your FJP Wealth Manager and we will provide our clients with a complimentary copy of our new book.

We wrote this book to help people make the transition from working full-time, to the next phase of their life, no matter what that next phase may be.

Elaine, Scott, and Linda have spent decades helping clients make this important life transition and they share what they have learned in this new book. There are also real client stories from clients who have made this transition successfully and a few who did not. Our clients have been reading the book and giving us great feedback. 

"We believe you can retire with more clarity and confidence than you ever thought possible."
- Elaine & Scott Manley

 



Financial Journey Partners

Financial Journey Partners - Partners in Your Financial Journey®

Our Financial Journey Partners office is based in San Jose, California. We have clients that live in many states across the country. If you have questions about your investments or financial situation, call us to schedule time to talk about your specific situation.

Sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date on our views of the economy, stock market, and top news stories.
  


 
References:

1 Mercury News - Blue Shield of California members’ data stolen — ‘a gold mine for thieves’

2 Yahoo Finance -'Mother of All Data Breaches' — 26 Billion Records Leaked, Users of LinkedIn, X, Venmo And More Panic Over Increased Cybercrime Risk

3 UpGuard - Biggest Data Breaches in US History

4 Forbes - iOS 17.1.2—Apple Issues Emergency Update To All iPhone Users


The reviews expressed are regarding the book "Enjoy the Journey: Successful Retirement Strategies and Stories" and are not regarding investment advice or services received from Mutual Advisors, LLC DBA Financial Journey Partners. The reviews are not from clients of Financial Journey Partners and there was no compensation provided for such reviews.

This book is for educational purposes only. It does not make specific recommendations to buy or sell any securities or give specific investment advice. Views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of Mutual Advisors, LLC, Mutual Securities, Inc. or any of its affiliates (collectively "Mutual Group"). Clients and prospects are under no obligation to purchase the book.

Revenue generated from the publishing or selling of the book are paid directly to the authors as outside business activity and are not considered part of the investment services offered through Mutual Group. Mutual Group receives no portion of the revenue generated by the publishing or sale of the book.