January 26, 2017. By Ashley Agnew:

This past Tuesday we had the pleasure of hosting Bill French to discuss how individuals and businesses can protect themselves from identity theft and fraudulent activity.  Bill is the Vice President of Fidelity’s customer Protection and Financial Intelligence Group and has a deep breadth of knowledge in the area of cyber-security, especially as it pertains to money movements such as wire transfers, etc. His responsibilities span all of Fidelity’s distribution channels and include fraud investigations, account protection, and anti money laundering initiatives under the USA Patriot Act.

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(Pictured above: John Wolfsberg, Bill French, Barbara Wiedenman, Jennifer Wolfsberg)

During times of of increased digital communication and data storage, individuals and businesses should have a heightened awareness of how to best protect themselves from fraudsters.  Here are a few key takeaways from Bill’s discussion:

  • Personal e-mail is still the #1 source of identity theft.
    • Be sure not to leave sensitive documents or communications containing account numbers, passwords, or social security numbers lingering in your inbox.
    • Be wary of links contained in e-mails. Be sure that the entire web address is recognizable prior to clicking to avoid visits to fraudulent domains.
  • Contact your financial advisor and banking representatives to alert them of any fraudulent activity, even if the activity seems unrelated.
    • You may feel that only one piece of your information has been compromised, however fraudsters are pros at using this information to gain additional access.  The sooner your trusted professionals are aware of this, the sooner they can enact the necessary measures needed to mitigate further damage.
  • If you are not seeking credit, i.e. applying for a loan, lock your personal credit.
    • You have the option of locking your personal credit with all three major credit bureaus. While the task may seem tedious to call each agency, it will deter to the opening of fraudulent accounts in your name.
    • If you should have the need to apply for a loan, be sure to unlock your credit for the brief application time so that authorized parties may run the credit checks needed.

Bill was certainly a wealth of knowledge and we thank those who came to the event. Aside from the tips above, we strongly urge you to review our Investor Protection Checklist and to share this information with your family and colleagues.  If you are a client of Centerpoint and feel you have been a victim of identity theft, please contact us right away and our compliance department will assist in protecting your accounts.