DALLAS - Merry Boone, a financial advisor with Raymond James in Hickory, N.C., had her identify compromised twice, once through Netflix and another time with an email from someone who appeared at first to be a client of hers, but wasn't. 

Boone was part of a packed conference room Tuesday at Raymond James' annual national conference, where FBI special agents spoke about how advisors can help educate clients on cybercrime, saving both clients and themselves from financial threats and headache.

"This is an anxiety-creating topic," said Andy Zolpher, Raymond James' chief information security officer. "For advisors, the privacy of their clients' information is their business. It's a business of trust. They want to know what they can do to protect their clients' saftey but don't want to be at a disadvantage compared to competitors." 

To do that, here are some tips advisors should consider to guard themselves, and clients, from cyber threats:

  1. Always verify any sort of money movement with clients by phone. Emails can be deceiving. "This is the most common type of cybercrime we see at Raymond James," said Zolper. "A voice callback is so easy to do, and would arguably prevent every fraud wire transfer we see." 
  2. Password protect all computers and mobile/portable devices. 
  3. Use personal firewalls and frequently update anti-virus software.
  4. Always use encryption for all sensitive data on computers.
  5. Report cybercrime threats to law enforcement. 
  6. Advise clients to be wary of open Wi-Fi, especially when online banking, i.e. at hotels/any public places. 

When asked for the biggest and most common mistake among advisors that make their clients vulnerable to cybercrime and identify theft, FBI Special Agents Mark Ducatel and Jeff Canter said the industry is often guilty of a failure to educate clients properly on the realities of such threats, the methods used by identity thieves, and ways advisors and their clients can protect themselves. 
"Cybercrime is a threat equivalent to that of terrorism but is often not taken as seriously," Ducatel said. "Threats need to be reported to law enforcement, but usually aren't," he said, adding that such crimes are becoming increasingly sophisticated among hackers.  

"I'll certainly recommend these tips to all of my clients to save them from the headache I went through," Boone said. 

The warnings from the FBI follow a report released last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which indicated cyber crime had become the second most common type of economic crime being experienced by financial services firms, after asset 'misappropriation.' 

PricewaterhouseCoopers defined cyber crime as "an economic crime committed using computers and the internet. It includes distributing viruses, illegally downloading files, phishing and pharming, and stealing personal information like bank account details. It’s only a cybercrime if a computer, or computers, and the internet play a central role in the crime, and not an incidental one."

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