Irma and Equifax

Hurricane Irma

You might recall that the Raymond James headquarters is located in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area of Florida, which like the rest of Florida, began preparing, last week, for the landfall of Hurricane Irma. As part of its planning to provide you continuous, reliable services, Raymond James had previously “diversified” its operations to other locations around the country, including Memphis, TN, Southfield, MI, Denver, CO, etc. With the advent of Irma, Raymond James mobilized its service continuity plan, closing the St. Petersburg, FL office on Friday while staffing up its non‐Florida offices with St. Petersburg personnel. Our team here at Laurel Wealth Planning has been impressed by Raymond James’ uninterrupted level of service during this catastrophic event. Of course, Raymond James has also highly emphasized the safety of its personnel.  At last report, we understand all to be unharmed, although there will be work ahead to clean, rebuild, etc.

Equifax

You may have heard on Friday that, Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, announced that hackers gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers (almost 50% of the U.S. population.) Credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers were stolen, while documents with personal information used in disputes for 182,000 people were also taken. In the face of such a significant breech, the next question, of course, is what should one do next?

Advice from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

Note, however, that this advice came out last Friday, and, since then, things are already changing in this developing situation. We recommend that you NOT take one particular step listed in the FTC article and not yet sign up for the credit monitoring service at Equifax. Currently there are some outstanding questions about whether you would limit some of your future potential legal recourse should you accept the terms of this offering.

The FTC article recommends that you consider a Credit Freeze on each of your accounts at the 3 services bureaus. Credit Freezes essentially limit access to your credit records, unless you give a party permission to do so. Credit freezes have advantages and disadvantages.

In addition, implement these other critical technology safeguards:

  1. Make sure that all of your internet passwords are complex. Consider changing all of your passwords to one new complex password – then change that regularly – at least every 6 months. Here’s an article on complex passwords. A complex password is especially important for your email account.

  2. Contact the vendor of your desktop/laptop/tablet to make sure that your antivirus software is up to date to protect against malware. If you’re unsure, have a computer consultant help you check.

Your Raymond James Accounts Through Us Have Significant Protection

As you know from working with us, we’re very careful about the authenticity of withdrawal requests that go to third parties. You may recall that we require verbal confirmations from you on these requests, to help ensure the validity of such transactions. Email requests for distributions to accounts other than your own are not accepted to thwart any electronic deception of any kind.

Please let us know your questions and comments on the above. We continue to monitor both situations, and will provide you updates as we learn more.

Laura Kuntz