Email fraud is on the rise in the financial world. We’ve noticed the phenomenon ourselves: Over the past several months we’ve seen an increase in computer hackers targeting client email with the intention of committing wire fraud. These scammers hack into the client’s personal email account and either create a cloned account using a similar email address, or they comb through the “Sent Folder” looking for financial or personal information. In either scenario, once they come across Pinnacle’s contact information, the hacker sends an email from the client’s address (or the cloned address) posing as the client and requesting funds to be wired to their bank account.
Thus far, these fraudulent emails have been easy to spot. Because our Wealth Managers and Operations Associates work with a fixed group of clients, we’re familiar with their communication style and are experienced in recognizing what we call “trigger words or phrases” (for example, “I am not available by phone today”). Working with our custodians, we have also been well trained in detecting wire fraud attempts and phishing attacks. Furthermore, Pinnacle has taken considerable measures to protect sensitive client information and there’s nothing in personal client email accounts that would let hackers get into our network.
Pinnacle has taken considerable measures to protect sensitive client information and there’s nothing in personal client email accounts that would let hackers get into our network. Nevertheless, email fraud is increasing and these forgeries are getting more sophisticated. That’s precisely why we created special online vaults for our clients earlier this year – to provide a secure location for their personal and financial information. Client vaults are essentially secure online lockboxes that they can use to store sensitive documents – tax returns, wills, trusts, Power’s of Attorney, etc. In addition to protecting sensitive material, they also use their vaults to receive and send back documents with their Wealth Managers and Operations Associates. This is very important, because it keeps their account and financial information from being transferred through email (and thus, vulnerable to hackers).
While it appears the online world is getting more dangerous, there are a few easy things you can do to protect your finances:
- Never send sensitive financial (or personal) information by email, unless your email is encrypted.
- Make it harder for hackers to crack your personal email account by using a mix of capital and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols in your password.
- If you’re a Pinnacle client, use our client vault to store and send all financial information.
We are absolutely committed to do whatever it takes to protect our clients’ assets and sensitive information. And while we can’t eliminate all the criminal risks out there, we’re making sure to keep several steps ahead of them, through technology and training.
Kristin Tucker is the Operations Manager for Pinnacle Advisory Group.
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