By Janelly Crespo
In today’s age and with the help of modern technology, identity thieves can easily obtain an individual’s personal information. Whether thieves use keystroke-logging software to capture usernames and passwords or send phony emails requesting personal financial information that a brokerage firm would never request through an email, there are numerous ways for an identity thief to steal personal information.
FINRA recently released a best practice tips guide informing investors how to ensure that their personal financial information is secure within their investment accounts. Although brokerage firms have an obligation to safeguard an investor’s personal financial information, there are some steps that an investor can follow to further protect their information from identity thieves.
To avoid falling victim to identity thieves, FINRA proposes that investors take the following steps to secure their brokerage account and personal financial information:
- Use strong passwords and PINS that contain both numbers and letters. Do not share your password with others or store them on your computer;
- Maintain up-to-date security software, such as personal firewalls, especially if the computer is used for online financial transactions and use encryption software on your laptop;
- Avoid using public computers and access your brokerage account from your own computer;
- Always log out of your brokerage account to terminate your access to your brokerage firm’s website;
- Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi connections as they do not provide as much security as wired Internet connections or encrypted wireless networks;
- If using applications from a cellular device, make sure that your phone is password-protected and you are using the highest security setting that the application offers;
- Make sure that the brokerage firm’s website indicates that the site is secure as you access your brokerage account online. Checking that the website’s URL address starts with “https,” contains a key or closed padlock in the status bar, or the address bar turns green are signs that the brokerage firm’s website is secure and encrypted;
- Download software only from websites you know;
- Do not respond to emails requesting personal financial information;
- Read your monthly account statements and ensure that all contact information is correct and that all security transactions are authorized and made by you;
- Secure all your confidential financial documents;
- Safeguard your Social Security Number; and
- Do periodic identity theft check.
If a customer believes that their personal information has been compromised, they should immediately contact their brokerage firm and other financial institutions—such as credit card issuers—to notify them of the problem.
For more information on how to safeguard your personal financial information or for more information on this topic, please visit FINRA’s website.