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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
PINTREST pins

Son of a Breach!


With the news that JP Morgan Chase's breach of accounts was much larger than previously reported, millions of people and businesses are shaking their heads and wondering when this will all stop.

It will not.

Hackers have the upper hand and we mere mortals are at the mercy of those we entrust with our financial information. To be fair, the JP Morgan Chase breech allegedly did not include personal information like account numbers, social security numbers or passwords. What it did was collect more than 85 million names, addresses and e-mails of personal and business customers. What this does is open up all these people to e-mail "phishing" attempts for the information they actually desire. Using phone numbers, they can call pretending to be representatives of Chase, Microsoft, or any institution claiming your computer was hacked. Once in they ask for permission to "take over your computer so they can fix the problem at their end". Do not do it. Once they are into your computer they can then access all the information you have stored there including all your financial information and passwords.

Aside from the scammers and hackers who will obviously profit from a data breach, there are other companies that will profit- monitoring companies. There are numerous companies (some backed by credit bureaus) that will take your information and claim to "monitor" the activity on your accounts to let you know of possible suspicious activity. The idea is that you can stop it right away and minimize losses. They charge a wide range of monthly payments with the average being between $7 and $15 dollars per month. Most will notify you only once a day if they suspect fraudulent activity and you can catch the same activity if you check your accounts once a day for free!

While health professionals recommend 30 minutes a day of exercise to keep your body healthy, I am recommending only 10 minutes a day of tracking your accounts to keep your finances healthy. Most of us are doing a lot of our banking via online or mobile methods and so this will only take a few minutes.

  1. Check your accounts- all of them- every day. Look for any activity that you do not remember- especially check the "pending" section of charges. These are amounts that have not officially been charged to your account and this is the perfect time to catch suspicious activity.
  2. Look for small amounts-under $5. Fraud artists often charge or withdraw small amounts first to see if their information is good or if someone catches them, before cleaning out or maxing out your accounts and credit cards.
  3. Call your bank right away, if you notice suspicious activity. Many banks with local branches and replace your card with a new number while you are sitting at the branch. For online or distant banks, you may have to wait several days or a couple of weeks to get your new card in the mail.
  4. Resist the urge to keep the PIN or password the same with a new numbered card. It will make it easier for a hacker to get into the new card. These thieves are used to culling millions of pieces of information to create profiles to steal money or identities. Keeping the same password or pin with a new card or account number only makes it easier to hack the new account.
  5. Get in the habit of changing your password and PIN frequently. You can also use a hard to decipher password. Experts are now recommending creating a phrase that you can remember easily and taking the first letter of each word to make up the password. Add a number and replace the letters or numbers with some symbols and you have created a password that is practically impossible to crack. For example, Scam Artists Hack Me Off= SAHMO. Now Add a number: 1032014=SAHMO1032014. Now replace some characters with symbols, like this: S@HMO!0#20!4. Voila! A password that is pretty darn safe!  P.S. DO NOT use this one-it is only an example. Make up a new one of your own!
  6. You can always go back to using cash and checks. Right now, these appear to be the safest alternatives. Make sure not to write or imprint you social security number or driver's license number on the checks. Checks are handled by a number of different people, and the more people that have access to this information; the more likely they can steal your identity.

Banks and retail merchants are slowly changing to a more secure type of card with chip and pin technology (an imbedded chip with radio frequencies that encrypt your information with each use). However, this is an expensive changeover of equipment and businesses are not in a hurry to spend the estimated $5 billion dollars to make the changes. As long as we continue to use our cards as much as we do, there is no rush on the part of card providers and merchants to make this expensive change. However, as consumers, we vote with our dollars and the methods we use to hand over those dollars. If we use more cash and checks and less plastic, then the banks lose the merchant fees and they will take notice. Some large retailers and banks are currently making the switch as in 2015 the liability for losses due to fraudulent use of credit and debit cards switches from the banks issuing the credit cards to the merchant that has the least secure technology. Tell your bank to hurry up and protect your accounts with the latest in technology. Ultimately, it is up to you to protect yourself by being diligent in tracking your spending and monitoring your accounts. It is also up to us to hold those we entrust with our money and financial information accountable with keeping that information safe




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