Imagine building up a lifetime of retirement savings, in one or perhaps even several retirement accounts ...only to wake up one morning and discover one of your retirement accounts has been wiped out by a hacker.
Unfortunately, this nightmare scenario is happening more and more often as hackers become more creative and use more sophisticated methods.
According to an article on MarketWatch, "Hackers are targeting new types of financial accounts — such as customer rewards programs and retirement plans, according to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research."
One reason online retirement accounts are being targeted is they aren't checked that much. This gives the hacker time to work, and potentially gain access to a particular account.
One of the main tools a hacker can use to access online accounts is to steal someone's identity using various illegal methods (including private information sold on the dark web).
And if your information gets into the wrong hands, and you're the victim of one of these hacks, your retirement assets can be put "up for grabs." You could also have to deal with the fallout for a long time:
"The financial hardships that may be caused by identity theft or a scam can last for months or years after your personal information is exposed," said Paige Hanson, chief of identity education at NortonLifeLock.
The good news is, according to Gessner Wealth Strategies: "Many reputable custodians that hold investment accounts offer automatic security guarantees and full reimbursements against unauthorized access to your accounts."
But getting a reimbursement can take time, and the process could be a hassle to recover your lost retirement funds. And what about preventing the next time it could happen?
It's a much better idea to prevent a hacker from stealing funds from your account in the first place.
What you can do right now to help protect your assets
Since the accounts that hackers can gain access to are mainly digital, here are three ideas you can start with to help protect your retirement account:
- According to Curi: "Check your account(s) frequently and address any irregularities. Contact your plan sponsor if any suspicious notifications about the plan are received. For example, if you receive any unexpected or suspicious-looking updates on your account."
- According to Michelle Gessner: "Do NOT click on any links sent to you in emails that appear to be from your custodian, even if there is a legitimate looking logo within the email. Hackers are getting very good at sending emails that look reputable."
- At MarketWatch, in addition to enabling two-factor authentication, they suggest: "Always be cautious with sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, and addresses or phone numbers."
But there is also one other effective way to make it more difficult for hackers to steal the assets from your retirement account.
Time to Take the Opportunities Away from Hackers
The MarketWatch piece finishes with a key insight into the mind of a hacker, and another way they can gain access to a digital retirement account:
"Cybercriminals frequently use known exploits, or flaws, in your software to gain access to your system," Hanson said. "Patching those exploits and flaws can make it less likely that you'll become a cybercrime target."
Obviously, it's a good idea to protect your current online retirement accounts.
But it's also a good idea to stay vigilant, so the next wave of computer hacker attacks don't make your retirement account their next victim.
So in addition to keeping your own computer software updated, it's also a good idea to consider ways to take opportunities away from hackers.
How? Consider shifting some of your assets into physical form, like precious metals. Gold and silver can't be hacked because they aren't "online." Ideally, they are stored safely in a high security vault.
You can then visit the depository where your precious metals are stored and view any metals in your account to verify they are there. If you've ever visited a depository, it should be clear a hacker would never be able to access your gold or silver.
No matter what precautions you take with your funds that are stored digitally, you can never have the same level of certainty.
Peter Reagan is a financial market strategist at Birch Gold Group. As the Precious Metal IRA Specialists, Birch Gold helps Americans protect their retirement savings with physical gold and silver. Discover more by clicking here now.
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