We recently had a friend of the firm reach out detailing an unfortunate phishing scam they fell prey to. While it didn’t affect our firm or any of our clients, it was nonetheless unsettling news. The target was tech savvy, knowledgeable in their field of finance, and always cautious. Sadly, it seems that as the technology around us becomes more advanced, so do the scammers that aim to deceive honest people.
The entire situation has caused us to reflect on our own firm’s cybersecurity measures. After all, we are acutely aware that our clients entrust us with some of the most sensitive information a person can possess. It’s also imperative that our clients and friends of the firm take proper cybersecurity measures as well – both for themselves and those in their digital bubble.
Keep Your Emails Spotless
Our firm is no stranger to full inboxes and long email chains. It’s often the most efficient and effective way to keep in touch with clients and respond timely to their queries, requests, and so on. Regrettably, email seems to also be the preferred medium for scammers, hackers, and the like. Over the years, we’ve developed safe and effective habits to keep our firm’s email accounts safe and secure.
- You should NEVER give out your passwords or share them with anyone who requests it, especially your email password.
- Be wary of unsolicited or suspicious attachments. Even if the email appears to be from someone you know, that does not mean it always is. The example with our friend that I mentioned above resulted from a phishing email sent by a trusted contact. Remember that scammers can hack into an email address or mimic a user’s account name. Therefore, if you receive a message (even from what appears to be a contact) that seems off or contains an unsolicited attachment, it is wise to check with the person (by way other than email) who supposedly sent the message to see if it’s legitimate.
- Trust your instincts when browsing your inbox. Many times, a phishing email from a would-be scammer will contain multiple grammatical mistakes, a strange email address, or odd requests. These signs should set off alarm bells. Whether you’re perusing the internet or responding to emails, it’s important to trust your instincts and be cognizant of any anomalies not typically seen in your day-to-day digital sphere. If something seems off, it’s usually for a good reason.
Is Your Software Up to Date?
More savvy hackers will know and capitalize on possible software vulnerabilities and weak spots. Software will often require an update or patch to eradicate these holes and keep your computer secure. Most operating systems have the option to automatically update when one is available. This is a smart tool to utilize so that as soon as a patch is released, you’re the first in line to receive it.
Because email is not always the most secure medium for sharing sensitive files, we’ve decided as a firm to use a secure file-sharing service in the cloud. Sharefile, our chosen file-sharing service, is how we exchange confidential documents with our clients and colleagues. Because we ask clients for private information such as social security numbers, account numbers, and so on, we require an extra level of security beyond an email attachment. While email is a great way to share files that may not be the most confidential – when it comes to information that a hacker may want to get their hands on, we like to use the utmost caution and recommend our clients do the same.
Making Payments Online
Another common trick that scammers use through email is the fake or misleading link. An email asking for payment and providing a link to an online payment portal may seem legitimate, but links are easily manipulated to funnel you to a website controlled by the scammer. You should NEVER wire money to anyone without first verifying the legitimacy of the email by phone call. We would never ask for this information. Therefore, when collecting payment, we now direct you to our actual website and then suggest you navigate to our online payment portal through EckertByrne.com. This simply adds another level of security and assurance you are inputting your bank information in the right place.
We hope these quick reminders help keep your digital life safe and secure. There is a bevy of sensitive information in your estate plan files, so it’s never a bad idea to be overly cautious.
Our team at Eckert Byrne will be taking all the necessary precautions to protect our clients, and ourselves, from scammers. Whether navigating through your digitized documents, making a payment online, or emailing with colleagues, we suggest always having your cybersecurity measures in mind.
As always, we are here for you. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.