Young or old, wealthy or poor, online or in person … Nobody is immune from cyberthief scams and identity theft slams. For attorneys, the threat is even greater. You could probably add an actual target to your back and be no more appealing than you already are to identity thieves.
Research from LifeLock suggests the following groups are most vulnerable to identity theft:
- Mega social media users
- High-income earners
- The elderly
A Whale of a Target
As an attorney, you’re probably neither a child prodigy nor a senior citizen. And you’re way too busy to Tweet your every move. But …
- Odds are, you ARE a high-income earner … or at least you’re perceived to be by those on the prowl.
- You probably have children and aging parents, both of whom you would dearly love to protect from identity theft. For the past decade, I’ve been checking my own children’s credit reports annually.
- Many attorneys are increasingly turning to Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook for professional purposes (just as I have). Even if you don’t crave the virtual limelight, it’s an admittedly powerful way to connect with your community. One attorney friend recently used our conference room to film a series of 30-second videos to share on social media.
In short, times have changed, and cyberthieves have got your number. Legal careers routinely rank among the most lucrative professions. You tend to live in affluent zip codes, drive expensive cars, send your children to private schools, and belong to elite organizations. Cyberthieves know all this and more about you, which makes you a highly desirable phishing target – a whale of a catch, in their lingo.
Know the Enemy
No matter who you are or how well-informed you may be, the bad guys are out there. Financial fraudsters and identity thieves are especially keen on getting ahold of direct hits, such as your Social Security ID, credit card numbers, and login credentials. But they also love to vacuum up random crumbs of personal info. This makes it easier for them to pose as you, breach your lines of defense, and cause all sorts of trouble in your name. Whether it’s an email phishing scheme (with a bad link or infected attachment) or they’re literally digging through your trash, there’s not much an identity thief won’t try.
Defending Your Identity: You Need Cybersecurity
Fortunately, there are still plenty of relatively timeless, sensible steps you can take to protect yourself. As an attorney, you already know how to defend against legal risks. Similar strategies apply here: Identify the most likely cybersecurity risks you face. Add the ones that seem less likely to occur – but most likely to cause serious harm if they do. Concentrate your efforts on these.
On the phone, in your home and while you’re out and about, many tried and true anti-theft strategies still apply. Hang up on suspicious calls, or don’t answer them to begin with. Shred or lock up sensitive information and keep an eye on your public surroundings. Plus, here are a few of the most hard-hitting tips for protecting your online security:
- Virus software: Install anti-malware and anti-spyware software on all of your devices. Keep them and your operating system current. And keep regular backups.
- Passwords: Create long, strong, and unique passwords for each of your devices and accounts. Periodically change them, especially on sensitive accounts, and whenever you “smell a rat.” Consider using password management software. Employ extra security when it’s available, such as two-step verification and biometrics (face recognition, etc.).
- Hyperlinks and attachments: In emails or on websites, be extra cautious about clicking on links or opening attachments. If something seems even slightly “off,” it probably is.
- WiFi: Be extra careful on public WiFi connections outside of your home or business. Don’t conduct sensitive transactions on them; assume the world can see everything you’re doing.
- Social media: Avoid disclosing much personal information (such as your birthday or travel plans).
Essential, Ongoing Vigilance to Protect from Identity Theft
It’s no secret that the stunning volume of past, major breaches means that some of your personal info has probably already been stolen, despite your best efforts. So, ongoing vigilance is also essential.
- Credit freezes: Post-Equifax breach, we feel most attorneys should freeze their lines of credit, as a simple but powerful step to ensure nobody but the real you can gain access to your credit history. Without the freeze, criminals can more readily take over accounts or file tax returns in your name. My wife and I have freezes on our credit reports at all three major reporting agencies.
- Credit monitoring services: We also subscribe to a credit monitoring service that alerts us to nefarious activities. Even though our credit reports are locked up, we still occasionally learn of attempts to open credit in our names. Plus, we can more readily discover whether our information has been compromised whenever the next, seemingly inevitable breach has been announced.
- Self-monitoring: Watch your own financial accounts and credit reports for suspicious activity. You know yourself best, so you’re most likely to spot something suspicious … if you remain vigilant.
A Cogent Helping Hand
If you’d like to learn more about what to know and how to protect and monitor your cybersecurity, I hope you’ll reach out to us. We’d be happy to send you more details, so you too can minimize your risks.
Since 2009, Cogent Strategic Wealth has been helping busy, thriving professionals just like you form formidable action plans to manage life’s risks and complexities, while securing and achieving their financial goals. Don’t manage your financial future on your own. Let us help you learn how to protect what’s yours, with a sensible plan in place today!