Cybersecurity Alert: What You Need To Do Now In Response to the Equifax Breach

September 8, 2017
 
 
Credit agency Equifax announced yesterday that it suffered a data breach affecting 143 million U.S. consumers.
 
 
The hack exposed names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers—all critical pieces of information used by identity thieves to impersonate people and conduct fraud.
 
 
This is probably the most consequential data breach in history, considering that nearly all U.S. adults have their credit histories on file with Equifax and the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion.
 
 
While it’s true that for some time that the public’s personal information has been available for sale in the black market, no data breach as comprehensive as this one has ever occurred.
 
 
That’s why it’s critical for you to take significant steps to protect yourself now—steps that exceed the response Equifax is currently recommending.
 
 
Here’s what you need to do immediately to safeguard your information.
 
 
Freeze your credit
 
 
If you have not done so already, it is imperative that you freeze your credit immediately at each of the three credit bureaus. We have been recommending this course of action for years.
 
 
A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, locks your credit file at each bureau with a special PIN that only you know. That PIN must be used in order for anyone to access your credit file, or add new credit in your name.
 
 
(Note: As of now, Equifax does not believe that security PINs were accessed by hackers. If you had a security freeze in place at Equifax before the hack your PIN should still be protected. But that could change.)
 
 
Credit bureaus rarely emphasize freezing your credit file because it’s not in their best interest, or their clients—banks and other companies that grant credit. Instead, they recommend “credit monitoring,” a largely useless and ineffective service that charges you money to tell you when your open, or unfrozen, credit file has been accessed.
 
 
In essence, they tell you that you may have a credit breach problem AFTER the fact, which isn’t protection against identity theft.
 
 
A security freeze gives you complete control of your credit file. Unlike credit monitoring or fraud alerts, a security freeze stops an identity theft from happening rather than alerting you to potential fraud after it has happened.
 
 
Reminder: We also recommend freezing the credit files of your minor children! If a minor child's identity is stolen, it is often not discovered for years - not until they try to apply for credit of their own later in life!
 
 
How to do it
 
 
To set up a security freeze you must contact all three of the credit bureaus individually. This process can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked some questions to confirm your identity but it only takes a few minutes.
 
 
We recommend beginning with Experian and Transunion as Equifax’s website is currently receiving high traffic.
 
 
You can freeze your credit by using the following phone numbers and links:
 
Depending on your state, freezing your credit can cost anywhere from $0 to $10 at each bureau. Proven identity theft victims can have this fee waived. (If you need to lift the freeze you will have to pay the same fee.)
 
 
To lift your freeze you simply contact the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN to lift the freeze for a certain period of time. This can be done online or over the phone. It may take a few days for the freeze to be lifted so be sure to do it a few days in advance.
 
 
Was I affected?
 
 
You can see if you were a victim of Equifax’s hack by visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ and entering your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. You can also wait to receive a letter from Equifax.
 
 
Regardless, take this time to freeze your credit. Given the sheer volume of breaches in the past few years, it is likely your information has already been exposed. Freezing your credit will give you peace of mind and is a crucial step in protecting your identity from hackers.
 
 
Don’t wait! Take action now!
 
 


Source: Horsesmouth Savvy Cybersecurity
 
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Money Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

August 30, 2017

 

All of our hearts go out to the people in Texas dealing with the hurricane and the unprecedented tropical storm that has followed. Seeing the images on TV of the flooding, the rescues, and the people in shelters has had us thinking about what we all can learn from this.

 

Gratitude for what’s most important.  In everyday life it’s easy to focus on getting ahead, material accumulation, and the minutia and worries of daily life. Sadly, sometimes it takes a huge event to wake us up and bring our attention back to what is most important in life. It can be an illness, death of a loved one, or like Hurricane Harvey, a natural disaster. In the TV interviews we notice over and over that people will mention the loss, fear, and grief they are feeling, but also their gratitude for getting out safely and for the responders and volunteers who have helped.

 

Take a moment right now and think of three things you are most grateful for in your life. A focus on gratitude can move you from fear, sadness, and worry to allow you to be better able to actually help and support.

 

Prepare for the unexpected.  Don’t miss the message that those of us left physically unscathed by this disaster can learn from the people affected. Do you have the proper homeowners and auto insurance in place? Do you have a box with important documents you can grab if you needed to leave your home quickly or do you have this information securely stored on line where you could easily access? Have you built up your solutions fund (aka emergency fund) in case your income stops for a while?

 

Help where you can. It is so inspiring seeing ordinary citizens in their boats, kayaks, and Jet Ski’s recuing people. The stories of neighbors helping neighbors are so heartwarming. Actually watching other’s kind acts can inspire and motivate more good deeds. It can be difficult to watch a lot of news as it feels so bad – but this type of news is different. This is when humanity is at its best. If you aren’t helping directly with the flood victims in Texas, where can you lend a hand or do a kind deed?

 

Open your heart and your wallet.Don’t just feel badly about this disaster; listen to the pull you are feeling to help. Donate what you can. The need is expected to go on for a long time with so many people displaced from their homes. There are so many good organizations that are contributing to the relief effort in Texas. Find one that speaks to you.

 

The American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey disaster relief is a popular and impactful choice for donations. One of our partners, TD Ameritrade Institutional, is offering to match each donation made on its sitedoubling the impact of every dollar given.  Click here to donate with a match.

 

Sending love and light to all those affected by Harvey and the aftermath….

 

All of us Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd.

 

Source: Ellen Rogin, CPA, CFP®

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Don't Sell on Headlines

August 16, 2017

 

So far, the world markets seem to be shrugging off the sabre-rattling coming from North Korea (normal behavior) and the U.S. White House (complete departure from policy). The smart money is betting that the distant but suddenly headline-grabbing possibility of the first conflict between two countries armed with nuclear weapons will amount to a tempest in a teapot.   
 

Meanwhile, the U.S. stock market has been testing new highs for months, and experts cannot quite explain why valuations have been rising amid such low volatility.  
 

So the question is quite logical: isn’t this a good time to pare back or get out of the market until valuations return to their historical norms, or at least until the North Korean “crisis” blows over?   
 

The quick answer is that there’s never a good time to try to time the market.  The longer answer is that this may actually be a particularly bad time to try it.   
 

What’s happening between the U.S. and Korea is admittedly unprecedented.  In the past, the U.S. largely ignored the bluster and empty threats coming out of the tiny, dirt-poor Communist regime, and believe it or not, that also seems to be what the military doing now.  Yes, our President did blurt out the term “fire and fury” in impromptu remarks to the press, and later doubled down on the term by suggesting that his warning wasn’t worded strongly enough.  But the U.S. military seems to be responding with a yawn.  There are no Naval carrier groups anywhere near Korea at the moment; the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt are both still engaged in training exercises off the U.S. West Coast, and the U.S.S. Nimitz is currently patrolling the Persian Gulf.  Nor has the State Department called for the evacuation of non-essential personnel from South Korea, as it would if it believed that tensions were leading toward a military confrontation.   
 

Meanwhile, on the home front, the U.S. economy continues to grow slowly but steadily, and in the second quarter 72.2% of companies in the S&P 500 index have reported earnings above forecast.   
 

What does that mean?  It means that you will probably see a certain amount of selling due to panic over the North Korean standoff, which will make stocks less expensive—a classic buying opportunity.  History has given all of us many opportunities to panic, going back to World War I and World War II, and more recently 9/11—but those who stayed the course reaped enormous benefits from those who abandoned their stock positions.
   

If you’re feeling panic over the North Korean situation, by all means, go in the nearest bedroom and scream—and then share some sympathy for the Americans living in the island territory of Guam, which is in the direct path of the North Korean bluster.  Just don’t sabotage your financial well-being in the process.   
 

Sincerely, 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA 
President  

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA
Founder & CEO

 

This material was prepared by BobVeres.com., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

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Cybersecurity Update: Your Email Address: The Weak Link in Your Security

                                                                                        May, 2017

Take a second and think about how many times per day you enter your email address to log into an account that is not your email. How many emails do you get from retailers alerting you to a big sale? A lot.

We’re quick to give away our email address to get information or deals—but is it putting our security at risk?

Yes, because every time we enter our email address into a database, we are handing a crucial window into our lives over to companies that often have questionable security practices.

According to a study done by security firm BreachAlarm, 41% of people who check their email address against a database of known hacked email accounts discover that their account has been compromised in a data breach. Mobile identity company Telesign found that two in five people have had an account hacked and a password stolen.

Our commonly used email addresses and passwords are out there for sale on the black market. When companies get hacked, your email address is exposed. And often your password is stolen along with it. But even if it’s not, there’s another easy way for hackers to break in to your email account.

They can use the password reset feature. In many cases, you can reset a password and access an email account by correctly answering security questions. More often than not, these questions can easily be answered by information found on the Internet. For example, “Where did you go to high school?” can be discovered by a quick visit to your Facebook page or a Google search.

Anatomy of an email hack

Once thieves are in your email account, they have the keys to your digital life.

A break-in of your primary email address exposes various aspects of your life. For one, your private life is unmasked: your correspondence, names, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, messages, passwords, photos, and more are in the hands of a hacker.

Social media activity is at risk—your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts can all be accessed via your email.

Your medical history also becomes public. Many insurance companies send notifications via email about new claims and payments. Clicking on a link in an email from your health insurance provider can give a hacker enough information to commit medical identity theft—a rising threat.

And we’re not done yet. A hacked email account can also uncover sensitive business information such as internal documents, salary records, competitive intelligence, and client notes. Any work you’ve done with a non-profit or in your community can be found as well.

Most dangerous: If your online bank, brokerage, or other financial accounts are linked to your personal email address, hackers now have a path to your money. Once they control your email account, they can hijack your bank account by performing a password reset and then start transferring money.

As you can see, your email account is a digital version of you. Unauthorized access gives the thief enough information to impersonate you and commit frauds that affect all areas of your life.

Keeping hackers away from your money

In order to protect your most sensitive financial accounts, you need to reduce your digital footprint by creating a secret email address. This email will only be used for your financial accounts—credit cards, brokerage banks—reducing the chance that it will get swept up in the next data breach.

When you create your secret email address, you do not want it to include any revealing information such as your first name, last name, initials, or birth date in your username.

You also want to choose the stronger security features to protect this account. Many email providers have begun phasing out password recovery questions because the answers can often be found by searching on the Internet. If you can, choose a recovery phone number for password reset. With this option, a code will be sent to your mobile phone and you will need to provide that code in order to complete the password reset.

Be sure to keep this secret email separate from your primary email address. Doing so will help you maintain secrecy and reduce the chances that a hacker can gain access to your finances. 

Cybersecurity Shorts

Fake Apple support team looks to steal iCloud credentials. Apple customers have received calls from scammers asking for iCloud usernames and passwords and other personal information. The scammers are taking advantage of false claims that millions of iCloud accounts had been compromised. If you receive a call claiming to be from Apple that asks for personal information, hang up.

Tech-savvy? You’re at greater risk of falling victim to identity theft. A study by IT training company CBT Nuggets found that those who are confident in their computer use are 18% more likely to become an identity theft victim. Only 3.7% of those surveyed followed all of the basic security requirements while 40% were “too lazy” or found it to be “too inconvenient.” These basic security requirements include using a VPN and using unique passwords, among others.

Sincerely,

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kohlhepp-Investment-Advisors/143204745739600

 

Please contact us whenever there are any changes to your financial situation, personal situation or investment objectives.

 

Sources:  horsesmouth.com

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The Fed's Rate Hike

March 2017

The U.S. Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee just raised the Fed Funds rate from 0.75% to 1.00%—the second rate hike in three months.  So what should you do with your investment portfolio in light of this change?

Nothing.

Why?  First of all, the rate change was laughably minor, considering all the press coverage it received.  In the mid-2000s, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan raised interest rates 17 times in quarter-point jumps, finally taking Fed Funds to a 5% rate.  This time around, the economists at America’s central bank are behaving extremely cautiously.

Second, although you may read that any raise in interest rates is depressing for stocks.  It’s true that borrowing will be incrementally more expensive for American corporations than they were last week.  But bigger picture, this move was actually a validation of the country’s economic progress in our long slow climb out of The Great Recession. 

By raising rates, the Fed was indicating that it believes the companies that make up our economy are healthy enough to survive and prosper under slightly higher interest rates.  The markets apparently felt like this was a positive sign, that the economy no longer needs to be nursed back to health.  The widely-followed S&P 500 stock index rose a full percentage point on the news.  

Third, and more good news, the Fed has now moved into a mode where it is fighting inflation, rather than trying desperately to stimulate it.  The worst thing that could happen to the economy is a bout of deflation, where prices fall and there are no policy remedies to fix the problem.  In the discussion accompanying the rate rise (the infamous Fed “minutes”) the Board of Governors expressed concern that inflation might rise above their “target” of 2%, hence the tightening.  If you read the message between the lines, they seem to feel that the threat of deflation is over.

Finally, the rate hike was expected, and already built into the price of stocks.  And more still are expected: at least two and possibly three 0.25% rises before the end of the year.  But the Fed also signaled that if there is any sign of backtracking, those plans will be scrapped.  The rate rises are anything but reckless.

So what WILL be the effect of the rate hike?  Borrowing to buy a car or a house will be slightly more expensive going forward than it was last week.  The average thirty year fixed mortgage rate this time last year was 3.68%; it’s now up to 4.21%.  

Most credit cards charge variable rates of interest, which likely means a 0.25 percent rise in the rates you pay on any balances you carry from month to month.  

And private student loans with variable interest rates will likely increase each time the Fed raises rates.  Balances on Stafford, Graduate Plus or Parent Plus loans will remain at their current interest rates, but the rates on new loans will probably rise.

If your portfolio is well-diversified, there’s not much more you can do to ride out a (slowly) rising-rate environment.  Ignore the headlines and celebrate the fact that even the most cautious economist in Washington are finally admitting that the economy is on solid ground.

Sincerely,

 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFP®, MBA
President 

Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFP®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA

Founder & CEO

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kohlhepp-Investment-Advisors/143204745739600

 

Please contact us whenever there are any changes to your financial situation, personal situation or investment objectives.

 

 

This material was prepared by BobVeres.com., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Sources:  

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/15/us-federal-reserve-raises-interest-rates-to-1

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-fed-interest-rate-impact-0316-biz-20170315-story.html

https://www.ft.com/content/9ea0e1bd-8c45-31ff-9d7c-241023fd5e12

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/fed-rate-hike-4-ways-to-ride-rising-interest-rate-wave/#.WMmTRplBq6o.twitter 

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Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd.
150 East State Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
Phone: 215-340-5777
Fax: 215-340-5788
Email: Info@KohlheppAdvisors.com

Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd. and Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. are not affiliated.


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