Hackers gaining access to your retirement accounts and potentially draining your life savings is a horrifying prospect, and that’s why it’s important to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect your nest egg.
While financial institutions have many factors in place to protect against hackers, bank accounts are still a lucrative target for hackers. And now customer reward programs and retirement accounts are becoming a more popular target, according to a 2019 study from Javelin Strategy & Research.
Identity theft is driving a lot of hackers efforts, and data breaches of major organizations have provided access to many users’ account information. Over 100 million Capital One users’ personal information was accessed in a breach in 2019. Everything from dates of birth and income to Social Security numbers were exposed.
That kind of personal information can be used to gain access to other accounts, or even sold on the “dark web” across the internet, which is a hub for cybercrime.
Retirement accounts are a treasure trove for hackers if they are able to gain access, and one of the biggest reasons is because these types of accounts aren’t checked nearly as frequently as say a regular bank account or retailer site. Securing these accounts can assure you aren’t dealing with months of future pain.
“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,” NortonLifeLock Chief of Identity Education Paige Hanson told MarketWatch.
With all that said, here are a few tips to ensure your accounts are as secure as they can be from hacking attempts.
Check Your Retirement Accounts Every Once in a While
Your retirement accounts don’t need to be pored over constantly (and doing that can be a lesson in pain considering what market volatility can do to those numbers), but it’s good to login every once in a while and check your account information to make sure everything lines up.
“We often don’t check our retirement accounts as often as other accounts, such as your email, credit card or bank account,” Hanson said, who also suggests turning on notifications for when users sign on to the account in question.
If anything seems fishy, contact your custodian as quickly as possible.
Secure Your Retirement Accounts
Be extremely vigilant when it comes to who you give your personal information like Social Security numbers or other account numbers.
“Thieves may not use your information for months or even years, waiting for a time when you may not be as attentive to the risk,” Hanson said.
Look into using a password manager to store your passwords securely. These tools can also generate stronger passwords than easily hackable ones like “123456” and “qwerty.”
Two-factor authentication, where you have to have a second device to confirm a login attempt, is another very useful tool to help with security.
Keep the Devices You Use for Retirement Accounts Updated
This one is fairly simple, but still important. Most smartphones will automatically update to the newest software automatically when one becomes available, but it can be easy to fall behind when it comes to applications you use to access accounts. Take a little time every once in a while to make sure you are running the latest versions of software.
“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.”
While financial institutions are obligated to protect your accounts and personal information, hackers are always looking for new ways to gain access and new vulnerabilities to take advantage of. Taking a little bit of time to make sure things are more secure can save you a lot of time and financial pain down the road.