For our first client communication in 2020, we want to share important information on how to protect one of your most valuable assets, your personal information.

Your personal, private information (“PI”) is any personal information other than your name, street address and phone number.  PI includes your birthday, social security number, credit card numbers, and bank and investment account numbers.   Safeguarding client PI is a top priority at Strategic Wealth Planning and we hope the following information and tips will prove helpful.

      1.  PHISHING

Phishing is a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer (phisher) can use illicitly.  There are four main type of phishing techniques: link manipulationfilter evasionwebsite forgery, and phone phishing.

Communications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to “lure you in”. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware.  Phishing is typically carried out by email spoofing or instant messaging, and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.

The first line of defense is NEVER respond to an email requesting PI.  Second, NEVER click on a link within an email. Instead, go directly to the website and find the information there.  You can also call the institution and find out why someone is calling or emailing you for PI.  Third, NEVER give out any information (social security number, account number, etc.) to someone who calls you.  Instead, hang up and call the company directly and ask to speak to someone about the call you received, to make sure it is legitimate.

And remember, the IRS and Social Security Administration only communicate via US Mail, never by email or phone call.


Approximately 10% of Americans have reported some type of credit card fraud.  Your goal should be to take immediate action to reduce chances of this type of fraud by installing anti-virus software on your computers, keeping and maintaining current records, and reviewing statements and charges at least monthly.

Take extra care when using your charge care on online sites, especially suspicious or non-established sites, as well as in foreign countries.  The legitimacy of websites should be verified.  Once on a website check what security or encryption software the website utilizes. A padlock to the left of the URL, can sometimes be found to signify additional security is being implemented.

A physical address for the company, or sending an email to one of the contact addresses can further verify the reliability of the company.  Even on trusted sites, it is important to be diligent that one has not navigated away from that site.  On accounts in which you have saved card information, it is important to have a strong password with a mix of numbers and symbols. Using different passwords for different sites, is also strongly encouraged.

Many credit card companies have a service that will send you an email whenever a charge is made on your card, or when a charge is made in the absence of a card for internet purchases.

If a card is lost or stolen, the card holder must report it immediately, even if no fraud has been detected yet. Once a card is reported lost or stolen, the card-holder is not responsible for erroneous charges.

       3.   IDENTITY THEFT

Identity theft is a crime where someone steals and uses your personal information and data without permission. Stolen personal data include Social Security numbers, passport numbers, credit card numbers, or bank and investment account numbers.

A related scheme is where a fraudster appears at a store to open an account and charge an item.  Merchants are often lax at checking appropriate identification and will open the new account and authorize the charge.  It may be 3-4 weeks before a statement arrives at your address and you realize that someone opened an account in your name!

Be aware of these 3 specific schemes:  1) when a criminal uses someone else’s SSN to get a tax refund or a job; 2) when a criminal uses a child’s SSN to apply for governmental benefits, open bank accounts, or apply for a loan; 3) when a criminal uses someone else’s name or health insurance to see a doctor, get a prescription or other various medical needs.

       4.    WHY USING “2020” MATTERS

You have probably heard “use 2020 and not just 20”.  The reason why is that simply using the year on a check or document as “20” (e.g., 1/7/20), would allow someone to it add a different year (e.g., 1/3/2021), thereby converting an uncashed check that had expired into something seemingly current and usable.  Similarly, a legal agreement intended to begin on the date “1/3/20” could be altered to read “1/3/2019,” thereby making it appear the contractual terms had been in effect much earlier than they actually were.


If your PI is compromised, here is an initial  check list for your consideration.

  • Immediately call and speak with the institution of the compromised account (bank, credit card, investment company) and request copies of  all documents relating to the fraudulent transaction or account opened using your PI.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report then contact the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, to report the compromise. Request that the reporting agency block any incorrect information and to place a “fraud alert” in your file.  An initial fraud alert stays in your file for at least 90 days.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration if your SSN was compromised.

We wish all our SWP clients and their families a healthy and peaceful 2020.  If you have any questions regarding this email, please give us a call and we will be happy to assist you.


Your SWP Team