Category Archives: Asset Protection

5 Ways to Boost Your Security Against ID and Credit Card Theft

By Bryan Mills

A week hardly passes without news of credit card and identity theft. Here are some security measures you can take, including some you’ve not likely heard of before now.

About a year ago, I was sitting down to dinner with my family when I got a phone call from a department store inquiring about my new credit card and recent purchases. I knew right away I had a problem because I’d never shopped at that store.

I left my dinner and started my own investigation. I spent dozens of hours tracking the frauds and thefts. I soon learned that five different credit cards had been opened in my name; new debit cards had been issued from my bank; and money had been transferred from my savings and checking accounts.

Naturally, I was completely appalled. Now I’m on a mission to make sure people learn from my experiences and consider putting into place new security measures, many of which I’d never known about—and I’m in the financial services business.

Here are five ways you can improve your protection against fraud:

1. Create secret “verbal passwords” on your bank and credit card accounts

Verbal passwords on all your bank and credit card accounts will save you time, money, sanity, and future chaos. Everyone enters a numbers-based key-code password when withdrawing money from a bank account at the ATM. Some, though not all, retail stores request an ID when you make a credit card purchase at the register. So why don’t banks require a password when you make a transaction at the teller?

Most banks won’t tell you to request a verbal password or phrase to be placed on your bank accounts. This is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the fraudsters lurking out there. Here’s how to do it:

Walk into your local bank and ask to speak with the branch manager. When you meet with the branch manager, request to speak about your accounts in a private office. Once you are in a closed office, instruct the branch manager to place a “verbal passcode” on all over-the-counter and phone request withdrawals, newly issued bank cards, and even transfers.

If the verbal password or phrase is not given, no information or transactions may proceed. I had this type of protection on one of my personal bank accounts. Unfortunately, I didn’t do this on the other one that was scammed for thousands of dollars in cash with a teller at a bank in a completely different state.

Most bankers don’t even check the signature card when given an over-the-counter withdrawal request. The verbal passcode or phrase will be your guardian and savior. One last thing: when you are asked to give your verbal password, never say your passcode or phrase out loud at the bank. Ask the teller for a piece of paper when asked for your passcode. Write it down, pass it to the teller and then take the paper back, tear it up, and put it in the trash.

2. Shield yourself from the “magic wand” with an RFID-protected wallet.

While shopping in crowds at the mall can be fun, you can also unknowingly expose yourself to a fraud device known as the “magic wand.”

“Wanding” is the process by which all your credit card information can be stolen by a $20 device that is able to read, record, and save it all in an instant. This information is then illegally used to create multiple cards that will be sold without your knowledge and permission.

You can stop this scam from happening by shielding your credit cards with an RFID-protected wallet (that stands for radio frequency identification device). These wallets can cost from $30 to $200. These wallets have a built in shield that deflects any credit card reading/skimming devices. Another cheap, quick and useful fix is to wrap your credit cards in tin foil. Yes, tin foil. This may sound crazy but it works. I happen to like a product called the Flipside Wallet. You may check them out at www.flipsidewallet.com

3. Protect your credit file like a pro

If you really want to control you credit file, open an Equifax account at www.equifax.com. Equifax is the best way to examine the accuracies of your credit history and manage your credit future. This service costs approximately $17.95/month.

Equifax gives you the power to lock or unlock your credit file. It’s your virtual credit file switch. Once you lock your credit file, no one can open a new credit card account–not even you. If you want to open a new credit card account or receive a bank loan, you have to login to your Equifax account and unlock your file with one flick of a virtual switch. This service also notifies you via email or text when key changes occur to your credit profile and if there is suspicious activity on any of your important financial accounts.

4. Never let your credit card leave your sight

When you’re shopping or eating at a restaurant, think twice before you hand over your credit card for payment. When your card leaves your hands and is out of your field of vision, this is when it can have its information stolen via a smartphone camera or mini card-reader called a skimmer. This type of fraud can happen in the moments you are waiting to get your card back. The best defense is to be present when your card is swiped (funny word, huh?).

5. Avoid making in-store credit card applications

I love to save money, especially during the special promotions and the holidays. Most stores will offer immediate credit and an attractive discount on all new purchases with a new on-the-spot application and approval.

Who is handling your paper application once it has been given to the store clerk? This information can be exposed to many unsavory people. If you really want the credit and a special discount, you can call the company’s credit department or fill out an application online ahead of time.

This protects you in several ways: The information you have given is with the headquarters representative. The conversation is usually recorded and stored. Once your application is approved and processed, it’s mailed to your home address. This will help keep your information safer. You may have to call a company representative for any in-store or online promotions that may be used with your newly minted cards.

Copyright © 2014 by Horsesmouth, LLC. All Rights Reserved


Protecting Assets and Reputation in the Midst of a Malpractice Claim

Besides being healers and caretakers, doctors are also business owners, putting them at risk for additional lawsuits and claims. There are many assets at stake when a physician faces a medical malpractice lawsuit, and it’s not just the assets related to the medical practice that can be vulnerable. Even if there is a settlement out of court, a doctor’s reputation, medical record and credentials could all be tarnished in the process.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has led to speculation about the broader impact on medical malpractice claims. A 2014 study by the RAND Corporation theorizes a rise of up to 5% in malpractice claims (1). The theory is based on an assumed increase in procedures and patient interactions from a higher percentage of the population being insured. Consequently, higher medical professional liability insurance premiums may be expected. Certain factors could have a broader impact on the risk profiles of physicians.

Standards Are Changing

A primary concern for physicians is that the quality and standard measures of the ACA could cause a shift in how “standard of care” is evaluated in the courtroom. The fear is that plaintiff attorneys could use these approved guidelines from specialty boards as “rules” for the standard of practice and patient safety. This would essentially allow operational guidelines to take precedence over proven clinical research.

Medical Professional Liability Insurance

Just as healthcare has undergone reform, some entities such as the Center for American Progress have suggested that a reform of medical malpractice law is necessary as well (2). One potential solution would be a safe harbor for physicians with legally-defined criteria for standard of care. Patients who bring malpractice claims must show evidence that their physician did not follow guidelines and meet the standard of care when diagnosing or treating their specific conditions. The ability to show documented proof that the physician did indeed adhere to established guidelines and upheld the standard of care is an effective means for defending such claims in the early stages of litigation.

Physicians can document their adherence to clinical guidelines by using a qualified health information technology system. Research published by the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that adoption of Electronic Health Records could lead to a reduction in malpractice claims (3). EHRs allow for more effective communication between healthcare providers and cuts down on the delay in receiving patient information. Also, the documentation provided by EHRs could improve the chances of a successful defense in the earliest stages of a malpractice lawsuit.

Preparing a Defense

Statistics indicate that the majority of physicians will be sued for medical malpractice at some point in their career. In fact, a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties will be sued by the age of 65 (4). However, there are some pro-active steps that can be taken when facing this ordeal.

Insurance carriers generally require to be notified at the first hint of trouble if there’s reason to suspect that a patient is considering a lawsuit. The insurer usually assigns a claims representative to investigate the claim, gather information and act as a guide through the litigation process. To maximize the defensibility of a malpractice claim, thorough records should be maintained and organized. Missing records and poor documentation in general could harm the chances of a successful defense.

Further, physicians should be cognizant of their rights when determining whether a settlement can be reached. In most cases, carriers won’t settle a claim without the doctor’s consent. However, some policies have a “hammer clause” that allows the carrier to assert pressure on their insured on whether a case should be settled. Even if the medical facts were on the doctor’s side, a settled claim can show up in a physician’s professional history, affecting their professional reputation and potentially increasing their future risk of similar claims. Having a consent-to-settle clause in a medical professional liability insurance policy may allow a physician to retain a higher degree of authority in this critical decision, and maintaining confidentiality in the terms of any settlement can eliminate or limit the impact of a claim on potential future claims.

Have Questions?

Advisory Services offered through Larson Financial Group, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Larson Financial Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. 

Larson Financial Group, LLC, Larson Financial Securities, LLC and their representatives do not provide legal advice or services. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your legal needs.

(2) http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/report/2013/06/11/65941/reducing-the-cost-of-defensive-medicine/
(3) http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1203517
(4) http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1012370

Maximizing Protection of Assets

Practicing medicine is a highly litigious profession. In fact, a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that a staggering 99% of physicians in high-risk specialties will be sued by the age of 65. Fortunately, you can defend many of your assets from potential lawsuits by following a risk management model that will systematically title your property in an advantageous way.

Carefully constructed asset protection strategies that are fully implemented before any hint of trouble are more likely to be effective in warding off potential lawsuits or reducing the settlement amount. That is where Larson Financial Group Lawsuit Protection comes in. Having your end goal in mind is extremely helpful when developing a solid plan of protection. The first step is to assess where you’re at today from a risk standpoint and how that falls short from your preferred state of protection.

Asset Protection for Physicians

Asset protection plays a critical role in many different aspects of your financial plan. If you’re starting a practice, you’ll need to recognize the implications your business plan will have on your estate. Or if you’re developing an estate plan, you need to assess what ramifications those strategies will have on your practice. Ideally, these methods will also be set up in a way that reduces your estate’s tax obligations after your death and allows your heirs to avoid the process of probate.

Larson Financial Lawsuit Protection

A carefully drafted risk management plan that protects your assets and business from liability claims will make you a less viable target for a lawsuit. However, assets that are legally exempt from creditors can vary widely from state-to-state on a case-by-case basis. Because every state has different laws to consider, it’s recommended that you partner with an attorney who is familiar with your state’s asset protection laws and case history.

Timing is everything when it comes to risk management. Asset protection strategies are only truly effective if done proactively. A reactive approach to risk management likely won’t be able to keep your assets safe.

Titles Matter

When purchasing the facility where you want your medical practice to be located, many of these same issues apply. You have to decide whether you want to put that property in your name, or in the form of an LLC that you co-own with others. If you have a partner, you should have an agreement in place that stipulates what would happen to the practice and its real estate in the event of a death or disability.

For planning purposes, you’ll want to look at your complete list of assets and classify them as:

  • Practice-operating assets
  • Practice-capital assets
  • Individual investments
  • Personal assets

Once your assets are classified, the next step is to build separation between your investment and personal assets so that everything is not on the table in the event of a liability. Incorporating your practice normally protects your personal assets from non-malpractice claims against the practice.

Oversight is Critical

When implementing an asset protection plan, the involvement of several different professionals from a variety of different disciplines is required. The services of an attorney, accountant, insurance agent and mortgage professional may all be necessary at some point, and coordinating their efforts is not always an easy task. It’s critical to work with professionals that have a fiduciary responsibility and are personally familiar with your values and objectives.

Asset protection is an area of wealth management that affluent physicians can’t afford to ignore. A risk exposure analysis will allow you to determine which personal and practice assets could be vulnerable and implement proactive strategies to protect them.

Advisory Services offered through Larson Financial Group, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Larson Financial Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Larson Financial Group, LLC, Larson Financial Securities, LLC and their representatives do not provide legal or tax advice or services. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your legal or tax planning needs.

How to Create Ultra-Secure Passwords That Keep Hackers Away

By Devin Kropp

With data breaches occurring more and more, it is important to protect personal information stored in online accounts with secure passwords. The majority of passwords do not pass the test. Learn how to create a password that will keep your data safe online.

Would you rather wash the dishes than create a new password for an online account? If you chose the dirty dishes, you are not alone. According to a study by Harris Interactive and Janrain, 38% of those surveyed would prefer doing household chores over creating a secure username and password combination. And when we finally sit down to create these passwords, we don’t seem to be that good at it.

According to Instant Checkmate, 73% of people use the same password for multiple sites. Even scarier, 33% of people use one password for every site they visit.

With weak passwords all over the Internet, researchers at Imperva found that it would take an expert hacker under 20 minutes to break into 1,000 different accounts. That doesn’t leave you with very good odds.

Doctor Financial Advisor

The number of identity theft cases is growing every day, and hackers can gain access to your life by breaking one password. A study done by Javelin Stategy found that one person becomes a victim of a hacked account every two seconds—a total of 13.1 million victims in 2013.

Chances are, once hackers gain access to one of your accounts, they will be able to gain access to many more accounts by trying the same password or resetting your password if they have broken into your email. Take Wired writer Mat Honan: Once a hacker got into his Apple ID account, his Twitter, iPhone, Mac, and Gmail accounts were all compromised. The hacker went so far as the clear Honan’s hard drive clean, deleting pictures of his child’s first year, which are now gone forever.

But there are steps you can take to make your passwords secure and keep the hackers out.

Password Don’ts

  • Avoid common passwords: Researchers at Instant Checkmate found that the most common password of 2012 was “password.” That doesn’t make a hacker’s job very hard. Protect yourself by avoiding passwords that are commonly used and first for hackers to guess, such as “12345” or “abc123.”
  • Avoid passwords that can be easily guessed. Next on a hacker’s list of possible passwords? Your name, your spouse’s name, you child’s name, your pet’s name, your birthdate, etc. Any information you share on social media acts as clues to your password for hackers. For that reason, it is important to stay away from details that could be found easily through your online presence. Even if you do not use social media, you should not use these details as passwords. Others may be able to gain access to this information through other means.
  • Avoid dictionary words. While there a millions of dictionary words to choose from, a simple lowercase word is not a secure password. Hackers know which words are used most often—and if you password is one of these words, it won’t be long before they break in.
  • Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. By using the same password over and over again, you are making a hacker’s job easy. Once they gain access into one of your accounts, they will likely try that same password to get into other accounts you have. If the password is the same, they can easily wreak havoc on many different aspects of your life.

Now you know what not to do. So how do you create a secure password? Let’s say right now your password is “finance.” Let’s go through the steps to take that weak password and transform it into a safe and secure password you can use.

Password Do’s

  • Passwords should be at least eight characters long. Longer passwords are generally more difficult to hack. Instant Checkmate found that the average password is only six characters long—not enough characters to keep hackers out. Our example of “finance” is only seven characters long and at the moment is a weak password.
  • Use letters, numbers, and symbols. Using all three characters makes it more difficult for hackers, as there are more variables they have to get right. So instead of “finance,” your password could be: finance/8$. While that is better, we can still improve this password’s strength.
  • Use both uppercase and lowercase. Again, this adds security, as there are more details a hacker would have to guess. With this new rule, “finance/8$” could become: FiNance/8$. Better, but we can still do more.
  • Use a mnemonic phrase. As we discussed earlier, dictionary words are easier to hack. But passwords containing dictionary words are easier for us to remember. There is a way to create a password that is strong—and easy to remember. If you can remember a sentence, you can remember a secure password. Think of your favorite song, poem, prayer, or pledge. Take a line from that and use the first letter of each work to construct your password. For example, take the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The first line, “Let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields” is memorable and can be transformed into a secure password you can use. Taking the first letter of each word of that line your password becomes “LmtydcIgtSF.” Now, of course, we need to add some numbers and symbols. Your final password could look something like this: Lmtyd_cIgtSF/76. If you are a Beatles fan, this password will be easy to remember but hard for the hackers to break into.
  • Use two-factor authentication. Many sites now offer two-factor authentication when logging into accounts. For example, when logging into a site with two-factor authentication enabled, a code will be sent to your phone that you must enter after your password to gain full access. In order to log in, you must have your password and a special code that is changed every time. If a hacker successfully guesses your password but does not have your phone, they cannot get into your account. Currently, sites such as Gmail, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, and more offer this service. Many banks and credit card companies offer this service for online usage as well.

It is important that you apply these rules to all of your passwords and create new, unique passwords for all of your different logins. It is also suggested that you change your passwords at least twice a year.

Password Services

If the thought of creating multiple secure passwords and remembering them all seems daunting, there are services that can help.

  • 1Password is software you can download that will store your login credentials for each site. After downloading the program, you will be prompted each time you log in to a site to save that password into your 1Password account. Your 1Password account is protected by a master password (the only one you have to remember). In order to access any of your other passwords saved in the software, you must enter your master password to retrieve it.This program can also generate strong passwords for you, and since you don’t have to remember them yourself, they can be long and almost impossible to remember—making them extremely difficult to hack. All your passwords are encrypted, meaning that even 1Password doesn’t know what they are. If you forget your master password, you lose access to your password list. 1Password does not offer two-factor authentication at the moment, but your registered device is needed to access your password list, which does add more security. The program is available for Macs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. 1Password for a desktop costs $49.99; it’s $14.99 for an iPhone/iPad. The app is free for Android phones and tablets.
  • LastPass also uses one master password to store all of your logins. Once you sign up, LastPass will begin to save your logins for each site that you browse. The next time you visit that site, LastPass will automatically log in for you. This service can also help you generate strong passwords. Your passwords are encrypted and then decrypted locally, so they are known only by you.The service also has a multifactor authentication option that adds an extra level of security to your passwords. You can download the basic service for free, or you can get the premium service for $1/month, which gives you unlimited access to LastPass on all your devices, including desktop, laptop, smartphone, and tablet. LastPass is compatible with iOs, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry.
  • KeePass also protects all of your logins with one master password. The service also protects you from keyloggers. A keylogger is malware that a hacker can install on your devices that keeps track of everything you type, making it easier to hack your accounts. KeePass protects against this through its Auto-Type feature, which automatically pastes your password into the password box of a site. There is an additional plug-in you can install within KeePass to set up two-factor authentication to add more security. KeePass is available for PCs and Macs as well as smartphones and tablets. Best of all, this service is completely free to download and use.

An easy way to protect yourself from thieves looking to steal your identity is by creating strong, secure passwords for all of your accounts. Following these tips can help you transform an easily hackable password into a secure password, better protecting your identity and personal information stored online. Don’t let the hackers in—update your passwords today to stay safe.

Devin Kropp is a New York- based writer for Horsesmouth.

Devin Kropp is not affiliated with Larson Financial Group.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This reprint is provided exclusively for use by the licensee, including for client education, and is subject to applicable copyright laws. Unauthorized use, reproduction or distribution of this material is a violation of federal law and punishable by civil and criminal penalty. This material is furnished “as is” without warranty of any kind. Its accuracy and completeness is not guaranteed and all warranties expressed or implied are hereby excluded.

Advisory Services offered through Larson Financial Group, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Larson Financial Securities, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC.

Copyright © 2015 by Horsesmouth, LLC. All Rights Reserved