Remember the good old days when a criminal had to go through your trash or steal your purse to get ahold of your personal information? Crime was a tough business to be in and took some real skill and persistence. Now fast-forward to 2020 to the land of emails and the internet. Criminals have graduated to earn the title of Cyber-Criminals. And how do Cyber-Criminals get personal information? In most cases we give it to them. We unknowingly fall for their tricks and give them access to all the personal data they need to pose as, and steal from us. Bank and credit card fraud have been the popular venues but the criminal activity is now making its way to retirement accounts.
Retirement accounts are actually a great target. Traditionally, we have been trained to leave them alone and not check them too often. The account needs to grow over a long period of time so, the philosophy has been, “set it, and forget it.” Unfortunately, this provides a great opportunity for theft since funds can be taken without the participant knowing. By the time the missing funds are noticed, the criminal and their trail are long gone.
So what can participants do to keep safe from Cyber-Criminals? It all comes down to having good Cyber-Hygiene, and paying attention to your retirement account activity.
Below is a list of activities and practices participants can use to protect themselves:
- Change their email password at least every 90 days
- Make all of their passwords into phrases. More characters and added complexity make passwords more difficult to guess, e.g. IvisitedCanada2020^
- Do not open any attachments or click on any links in emails where they do not know who sent the email, or if the email is from a trusted source but unexpected. This is the number one way to unknowingly download a virus.
- Keep and maintain antivirus and antispyware software on their computers.
- Regularly look at their retirement plan statement. Looking over their statement is the best way to detect fraudulent activity and to take action sooner than later.
Cyber-Crime is not going away anytime soon, but it can only flourish as long as the public remains uneducated. We encourage you to take a moment at your next employee meeting to discuss Cyber-Hygene, or to simply send out an email. Informing participants that protecting their retirement savings starts with them, and knowing how to protect themselves can save a lot of heartache.