The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a huge increase in scams and cybercrime aimed at draining victims’ bank accounts. As advisors continue to help clients navigate these economically tough times, cybersecurity would be a good addition to your list of talking points.
Protecting Your Clients
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FBI reported a 300% increase in cybercrime. Google has reportedly been blocking an average of 18 million COVID-19 spam emails a day. These alarming figures highlight the need to speak with clients about how to protect their finances from cybercriminals.
Cybercriminals are preying on people’s fears about the virus. Take a proactive approach to protecting your clients’ finances by informing them of the different types of scams out there. Many of these scams involve phishing emails asking for donations for COVID-19 relief funds. While charities like this do exist, urge your clients to delete unsolicited messages from suspicious or non-verified organizations.
Pandemic-related fears have seen numerous smart device apps that claim to keep people informed and safe from the virus. Apps like “corona live 1.1” offer a sense of security by supposedly tracking reported cases of the virus. In reality, these apps are infected with malware that steals personal information from the user’s device.
The pandemic has seen a huge increase in the number of people working from home. This also means a huge increase in the amount of time people spend online, leaving them more susceptible to attacks. People working from home aren’t protected by the same security protocols and firewalls as they would have at the office. Many remote workers are using their personal computers to for work-related tasks. Depending on the person’s line of work, not only is their personal data at risk, but so are any records they may handle as part of their job.
Part of the cybersecurity conversation you have with clients should involve information about how to safeguard their computers and mobile devices. While your expertise is in finance, and not IT, there is plenty of information out there on the topic. Leverage this information by sharing relevant and recent articles with clients and on your social media pages.
Protect Your Business
Even before the pandemic, data breaches lead to trillions of personal records being stolen by cybercriminals. Businesses that deal with financial records are the most common targets. Servers for everything from the popular online video game Fortnite to Capital One have fallen prey to hackers. The attacks have exposed a wealth of personally identifiable information, including, in some cases, Social Security and credit card numbers. The need for advisors to be aware of data security measures is more important than ever.
Oversight agencies are taking the increase in data breaches very seriously, especially as it pertains to the financial industry. Advisors need to stay up to date with any new moves made by the SEC and FINRA regarding safety of client data. For example, the SEC has made fraud prevention/cybersecurity a top exam priority and will frequently post new risk alerts related to safeguarding client records and personal information.
Beyond keeping your personal data handling practices in compliance, it’s important to make every effort to safeguard your own information. For one, taking steps to protect yourself is an exercise in common sense and a necessity. As many victims of fraud could attest to, identity and information theft can leave a huge mess to clean up and take months—if not longer—to recover from.
Another benefit of walking yourself through the protection process is the experience itself. When talking to clients about the why and how of data protection, you’ll be able to speak from a “when the rubber hits the road” perspective. Instead of rambling through a scripted “How To Protect Your Data” spiel, you will be more relatable and credible by sharing your personal experience of the matter.
The Opportunity to Educate
Advisors looking for the next consumer engagement opportunity can find one in data protection awareness. As concern over cybersecurity grows, clients and prospects are becoming more receptive to learning how to protect themselves. Call your existing clients and schedule a time to sit down and determine how well they are protected, and what holes need to be filled.
The issue of safeguarding one’s data can also be a good prospecting strategy. With cybersecurity and data breaches in the news on almost a daily basis, it’s become nearly impossible to not think about. This means prospects in your drip list are more likely to open and read an email on the topic. And as a trending topic, SEO and social media campaigns have a higher potential for engagement.
Data protection might not be within the traditional wheelhouse of an advisor, but changing times demand a changing approach. As someone in the finance industry, many consumers probably already consider you a trusted source of advice and assistance. Taking the time to help people safeguard their personal information can lead to a long-term advisor-client relationship rooted in trust and credibility.