On November 21 of this year, a Lithuanian cybercriminal was extradited to the U.S. to face charges for money laundering and fraud. Since 2011, this man and unknown conspirators had been stealing thousands of dollars from various individuals’ brokerage accounts via electronic means. According to CNBC, he “allegedly worked with co-conspirators to trick day traders and their financial advisors into liquidating securities, wire cash from brokerages, and establish new, fraudulent trading accounts under the victims’ names.”
Email is the most common way scammers target unsuspecting victims. Scammers often pose as a trusted third party, hack and scan email accounts for personal information, or send urgent messages instructing victims to “transfer funds right now.” They can be incredibly successful at impersonating sites or financial advisors you trust.
Here are a few tips to secure your accounts and protect your finances:
Protect your email accounts. If you searched through your email right now, you’d probably find a wealth of personal information you’d never readily share with outsiders. Be careful that you aren’t sharing account numbers and login information via email, and never trade over email. Instead, communicate with financial advisors and institutions in person or over the phone. We also recommend setting up two-factor authentication on all your accounts to make it harder for scammers to gain access.
Communicate verbally with your financial advisors and bank. Don’t share account information via email, but rather in person or over the phone with advisors you trust. Hackers will go to great lengths to impersonate people using fake emails, fake IP addresses, fake social media accounts, and fake websites. It’s also important to communicate carefully over the phone. If someone calls you asking for any type of personal information, that’s a red flag. Don’t share it. Contact your bank or advisor directly to confirm the request is legitimate. Besides, your bank/advisor should never call you asking for your account information—they already have it.
Take action if you suspect fraudulent activity. If something seems fishy, it probably is. Being cautious is better than having a bank account wiped, so if an email seems suspicious or unusual activity is happening with your accounts, don’t wait. Contact your financial advisor or institution right away.