Everyone plays an important part in keeping sensitive data secure. Find out what you should know and what you can do to help yourself against the cyber crooks looking to grab your financial data.

Highly visible data breaches continue to happen and data security remains a top concern. This concern is bound to rise as we constantly rely on technology for retirement account information and transactions.

Scams that target the unsuspecting (or at least, credulous), whether by phone, computer or in person, are successful to the tune of billions of dollars a year. But fear and shame often keep victims from seeking the help that’s available to prevent or limit the damage.

This is especially true of seniors. Studies have shown that we become less skeptical and more impulsive as we age. It is estimated that identity thieves steal as much as $36 billion from elderly Americans each year.

These thieves know that open lines of communication between elderly parents and their children can make their ability to pull off a scam more difficult. It is a widely told example about a scammer calling someone claiming to be a grandchild in a desperate situation, such as being arrested and needing bail money. The pleas can take place over numerous phone calls with the “grandson/granddaughter” begging the grandparent to not call the parents, to keep them offender out of hot water with the parents. Maybe the person being scammed will catch on, but only after sizeable sums of money have been transferred and the scammer is on to the next victim.

Along with telephone scams, living in our connected world requires diligence. Computers, smartphone, game device, or other connected devices, require the best defenses against viruses and malware with up-to-date security software, web browser, and operating systems. Sign up for automatic updates if possible and protect your devices with antivirus software.

Most connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved.  This app may be gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk.

It’s recommended to check your apps’ permissions and use the “rule of least privilege” to delete what you do not need or no longer use. Learn to just say “no” to access requests that do not make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources. Remember, just because something is on the mobile app store does not mean it is safe. You still need to verify that it’s trustworthy.

You might want to visit the website Staysafeonline.org to review its many digital checklists and decluttering pointers. A couple of handy ones that I like are deleting old files and outdated financial statements from a computer.  I make sure I have the appropriate digital backups and archives, before taking this step.  Also, make use of two factor logins where necessary to add an extra level of protection for sensitive material.

For those who may already have experienced an identification theft, there are steps to take.  These can be found at IdentityTheft.gov. There you can report identity theft and create a recovery plan to put into place.

Identity theft is a rotten experience and it’s happening too often. Taking some precautionary measures can help to foil the scammers. For the people already impacted by ID theft, there are programs and organizations ready to assist to lock down your records and prevent future fraud.

Please contact me with any questions on this material.  I hope you enjoy your upcoming holiday festivities!