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  • Charlotte Jones

Understand the Basics of Cybersecurity: 5 Steps to Stay Safe Online

It seems around every corner we are warned of cybersecurity scams and prevention. With AI playing a bigger role, it's hard to know what is real and what is fake.  

 

This issue is very real for us at Northstar because a big part of our service to clients is helping them set up new accounts, make transfers, or modify their investment accounts.  In 2023 it felt to us like the financial institutions we deal with ourselves and on behalf of our clients were rapidly introducing new authentication methods. When we received an email from Charles Schwab entitled “Cybersecurity alert: Fraudsters are impersonating financial institutions”, we started to understand why.  Last year saw an increase in “imposter scams” that impersonate trusted financial institutions like Charles Schwab or the bank where you keep your checking account. Those scams and many others erode the trust you should be able to have in your financial institutions so we thought it would be important to share that information that Charles Schwab sent us with you.  

 

This is just our summary of the important points, Charles Schwab has a lot more information here:  https://www.schwab.com/schwabsafe/security-knowledge-center.


What is an “imposter scam”?


According to Charles Schwab (we lifted this directly from their email because it’s such a great explanation!), imposter scams refer to a scam where a fraudster impersonates a trusted individual, business, or organization to convince a target to transfer money. 


In an imposter scam, fraudsters will often: 

  • Contact you via a phone call, email, text, online advertisement, or social media post. 

  • Claim to be security/technical support for a known and reputable company, such as Microsoft, or a trusted financial institution like Schwab. 

  • Ask you to download software and/or request remote access to your computer. 

  • Send you an email or text message with a link or attachment, which may ask you to approve/deny a transaction, set up new credentials, or take some other action regarding your account. 



How to Prevent Imposter Scams


Step 1

Verify the credibility of the entity or individual attempting to contact you, particularly if the outreach was not initiated by you. In case of any uncertainties, it is advisable to consult your advisor before engaging in further communication.


Step 2

Never presume that the legitimacy of an institution is confirmed solely based on the displayed caller ID. Text messages, emails, and phone calls might seemingly originate from a trusted institution, yet they could be deceptive and actually be from a fraudulent source. Always exercise caution and verify the authenticity of the communication through additional means when in doubt.


Step 3

Exercise caution and allocate time for research if you encounter a request demanding urgent money transfers, account numbers or other sensitive information. Once more, consulting your advisor can aid in determining the legitimacy of such situations, ensuring informed decisions.


Step 4

Verify the legitimacy of a website or link provided in an email by checking its URL. Ensure it matches the authentic site address (e.g., www.schwab.com) and be cautious of slight variations or alterations which may indicate a potential fraudulent attempt.


Step 5

Avoid transmitting sensitive information such as social security numbers, account numbers, etc., via email or traditional mail. If you possess documents containing this information, we can offer a secure link for you to securely upload them to ensure confidentiality and protection of your data.





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