In light of the recent Russian aggression in Ukraine and surrounding areas, here is a quick and important message regarding vigilance around security of personal information, including:
- Bank accounts – including in-person, online, PayPal, Venmo, etc.
- Credit card accounts
- Email & Texts
- Tax time information
- Social media
- Even Crypto accounts!
It should not come as a surprise to read or hear this message. Hopefully, the major news outlets are broadcasting this warning as well:
The SEC (US Securities and Exchange Commission) has sent notices that the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a “Shields Up” notification. The notification states that “[w]hile there are not currently any specific credible threats to the U.S. homeland, we are mindful of the potential for the Russian government to consider escalating its destabilizing actions in ways that may impact others outside of Ukraine.” Accordingly, the notice “recommends all organizations—regardless of size—adopt a heightened posture when it comes to cybersecurity and protecting their most critical assets,” and it provides specific steps organizations can take reduce vulnerabilities and heighten readiness. The full notice can be found here: https://www.cisa.gov/shields-up
Specifically, regarding financial accounts and financial information, we instruct our clients:
- NOT to open any email attachments or documents that they are not expecting from us. This means we are being extra vigilant in notifying our clients, wherever possible verbally, of documents we may be sending.
- To log in directly to Charles Schwab or their bank, rather than through an email link.
- To communicate and confirm to us verbally any money transfers in/out of accounts, even if it is done independently online by the client – at least we are informed on the clients’ behalf.
- Confirm with us any address & contact changes or title changes on accounts (updated email, home address, etc.)
- Alert bank and investment account custodians (Charles Schwab, Bank of America, etc.) immediately with any suspicious activity and change passwords immediately!
- Opt in for MFA (multi-factor authentication…. which means that you receive a text message in addition to entering a password every time you log in to a bank, credit card, mortgage, or financial account).
FINALLY – it is tax time! We will all be exchanging the most confidential and valuable personal information at this time. Especially for people who live on their cell phone or smart device, DO NOT-NOT-NOT:
- text to your CPA photos of tax forms or W-2 statements
- text to your CPA scans of 1099 information and the like
- email to your CPA ANY documents without encryption (encryption is more than merely a password on a PDF file)
SOMETIMES TRACKABLE SNAIL MAIL can be best – even if it costs an extra $10 – you will be grateful in the long run.