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How to protect yourself against identity theft

A few simple steps today can improve your cybersecurity


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We hear about it all the time – cyber security breaches that have the potential to put all our financial information at risk. Identity theft is a real problem that most of us are both aware and terrified of.

Morgan Stanley’s latest Investor Pulse Poll revealed that nearly 3 out of 4 high net worth (HNW) investors – those with $100,000 or more in household liquid assets – are concerned about identify theft, even ranking ahead of terrorism and a major illness in one’s household.

How common is it?

Fully nine in 10 respondents report being impacted by data security issues in some form. The most common issue these investors have faced is a security breach at a company with which they do business. Moreover, a sizable one in six report a data breach having occurred at their employer. In addition to security breaches, many of them have been victims of computer viruses and stolen credit or debit card numbers as well.

In spite of these breaches, roughly half or more have at least some degree of trust that their financial institutions, doctors and hospitals, employers, communications providers and the retailers where they shop will protect their personal information.

Coming face to face with identity theft

Few (15 percent) of those who have not yet been affected by identity theft feel “very” confident they would know what to do if faced with this situation. Moreover, 58 percent of these respondents who have not been impacted by identity theft imagine that it would be “very” stressful to deal with.

They have a strong sense that they and their loved ones — parents/in-laws and/or children — could be victims of identity theft and not even know it. More than half expect identity theft to be more of a concern to them in the next three years, while relatively few feel that all the talk about identity theft is overblown. 

Finding a solution

With technology constantly changing, these HNW investors feel that it is difficult to find the best way to protect themselves. So what can you do now? Be diligent about monitoring your credit report and account statements. Enroll in electronic alerts for account or fraud activity if your bank or financial institution provides it. Finally, notify your financial institution as soon as possible of any suspicious activity.

Finally, be sure to maintain anti-virus and anti-malware software, create strong passwords, don’t share crucial information like your birth date and address on social networking websites and be sure to use privacy settings. But by instilling a few simple steps today, you will be better prepared tomorrow.

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Todd Hauer

Todd Hauer is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in the Denver Tech Center. He can be reached at 720-488-2406 or toll free at 1-800-347-5099, or you can email him at Todd.Hauer@morganstanleysmithbarney.com.

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