Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Cyber Attacks

by Brie McDonald, CFP® – Advisor

Panic set in as I woke up one morning to several notifications on my phone. I had received multiple text messages in the middle of the night with security verification codes. I also received an email notifying me that someone had logged into one of my accounts from a new device. I felt like I was under attack.  

Unfortunately, my experience isn’t uncommon. Identity theft and cybercrime have become an increased threat in recent years—especially as cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated. But there is good news! By taking some proactive steps and understanding basic cybersecurity practices, we can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to these attacks.  

Read on for 11 steps that you can take to protect yourself:    

  1. Freeze your credit 

Freeze your credit with the three credit bureaus—Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Freezing your credit restricts access to your credit report. This will prevent someone from being able to take out a loan or open a new credit card in your name. You’ll just need to remember to unfreeze your credit if you need to have it run.

Here is a link with more information: 

  1. Change your passwords 

Change the passwords for your online accounts to something unique (not used elsewhere) and complex. Some tips for creating a strong password are to use a password generator, to use a combination of symbols and letters, or to create a phrase with unrelated words (focus on length). Never use personal information such as names, birthdays, or addresses when creating a password. We recommend using a password management app, such as Keeper, so that you don’t need to remember all of them. 

  1. Turn on two-factor authentication 

Enable multi-factor authentication for all online accounts where available. Don’t forget to enable two-factor for your email account as well. We’ve seen instances where someone has hacked into a client’s email account and impersonated them asking for a wire transfer. This is why Moneta verbally confirms money movement requests received via email. You may want to consider switching email providers if two-factor authentication is not offered. 

  1. Get an IRS pin 

Enable an IRS identity protection pin for your tax return to prevent fraudulent return filing.

Here is a link to the IRS webpage where you can get an IP Pin: 

  1. Use a VPN service 

Avoid using untrusted computers and public Wi-Fi when possible. If you find yourself frequently utilizing public Wi-Fi, you may want to consider getting a virtual private network (VPN) service. A VPN runs in the background while you are using the internet. It hides your private data and online activity.  

  1. Create a family password  

Consider creating a verbal password that is only shared within your family. There has been an uptick in fraudulent phone calls where the bad actor claims that a family member is in trouble and demands a sum of money. Asking for the “family password” can be one way to identify the scam. 

  1. Update your device  

Ensure that your computer’s operating system, software, and anti-malware is up to date. 

  1. Sign up for alerts 

Sign up for alerts with your credit card and bank accounts to notify you of activity and purchases.  

  1. Think twice before you click once 

If you receive an email that seems off, hover your cursor over the link before clicking on it. If the URL doesn’t match the text that appears in the email, do not click on the link.  Additionally, check the sender’s email address carefully.  Phishing emails often come from addresses that look legitimate but have slight misspellings or use free services like Gmail or Yahoo.  Hover your mouse over the sender name to see the actual email address. 

  1. Beware of unsecure websites 

Only enter personal information on websites where the URL begins with “https” rather than “http.” The ‘s’ indicates secure.  

  1. Shred documents  

Shred documents containing your personal identification information. Moneta has an annual shred day where clients can drop off their sensitive documents to be shredded. Look out for our date announcement.  

Stay vigilant and no matter the issue, a financial advisor from the Diederich Simmons Perez team is available to help. If you would like to speak with a financial advisor to develop a financial plan or review your current plan, you can contact me at, or visit our website at Moneta – DSP Team.  We offer a free consultation and are always available to discuss how we can help people achieve their lifetime financial objectives in support of the things they most cherish. 

© 2024 Advisory services offered by Moneta Group Investment Advisors, LLC, (“MGIA”) an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). MGIA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Moneta Group, LLC. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, is not intended to be comprehensive or exclusive, and is based on materials deemed reliable, but the accuracy of which has not been verified. 

Trademarks and copyrights of materials referenced herein are the property of their respective owners. Index returns reflect total return, assuming reinvestment of dividends and interest. The returns do not reflect the effect of taxes and/or fees that an investor would incur. Examples contained herein are for illustrative purposes only based on generic assumptions. Given the dynamic nature of the subject matter and the environment in which this communication was written, the information contained herein is subject to change. This is not an offer to sell or buy securities, nor does it represent any specific recommendation. You should consult with an appropriately credentialed professional before making any financial, investment, tax or legal decision. An index is an unmanaged portfolio of specified securities and does not reflect any initial or ongoing expenses nor can it be invested in directly. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. All investments are subject to a risk of loss. Diversification and strategic asset allocation do not assure profit or protect against loss in declining markets. These materials do not take into consideration your personal circumstances, financial or otherwise. 

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