Your Advisor is on the Front Line of Cyber-Defense: Story 1

There are a few keys tenants of internet safety, among them: strong passwords, careful downloading, and safe browsing on secure networks. These days, scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in their methods and execution, but they typically rely on your email address as the main access point to your data, contacts, and assets.

Throughout my 15+ years as a financial advisor, I’ve witnessed many scammers attempt to make withdrawals from my clients’ accounts. And each time, I’m more impressed by the sophistication of their methods. Yet they have ultimately they failed to fool me, because of how well I know my clients. 

I thought it would be helpful to share a blog series on cyber security, featuring stories involving examples of times I’ve managed to prevent fraudulent activity targeting my clients, as well as stories I’ve heard in which others were not as lucky. We’ll start with prevention. 

This first story features client of mine who also happens to be a skilled pilot. I had met with him recently, and as always, we talked about his upcoming adventures around the globe, which always filled me with a healthy mixture of envy and excitement. Just a few weeks after our meeting, though, I received an email from him. It was a very specific email reviewing the itinerary that we had previously discussed together, but with an added trip from Italy to Asia. Nothing majorly out of the ordinary there. 

He then asked me to wire some money to a bank that was not on file already, saying he needed the form to do so. While a less experienced advisor may have been duped by a request like this, I instantly sensed something was up. For starters, I know my client was on a work trip, not a vacation, so he wouldn’t need that sum of money. And secondly, I couldn’t help but notice his new email signature. He had always signed his email the exact same way, but this signature was different. For me, it was a smoking gun.  

I immediately called him up, even though he was in Italy. He confirmed my suspicions that the transfer request wasn’t coming from him, so we updated his password and checked to see if my email had been blocked, which it had.  (Scammers do this to prevent advisors from contacting their clients, hence why I called him directly.) 

Case (almost) closed, but not quite yet. I got a message the next day from a nearly identical email, asking once again for the form. So I decided to get one step ahead of this scammer. I deliberately asked him where he wanted me to wire the money and told him I’d take care of it. He then sent me wiring instructions to a bank in New Jersey. I promptly  called that bank and informed them that my client’s account had been compromised. They were grateful for the heads up and said they would begin tracing all activity to that account. 

This is just one example of many that I hope underscores the importance of having a trusted advisor overlooking your assets. I am proud to have been able to save my clients from any unnecessary financial loss or  heartache, at the hands of potential scammers. At Torrey Wealth, we take great pride in how well we know our clients, allowing us to mount a successful defense against against attempted cyber attacks.