Managing Your Money

Is Your Money Safe in Cyber-Space?

Almost 90% of Canadian households are connected to the internet¹. Over the past few decades, the internet has grown from a simple communication tool, to something so big that it touches nearly every aspect of our lives. Even when we’re not online, information about our health, finances, careers, and even our personal life is vulnerable. The internet can be a great tool for investors, and offers a wealth of knowledge about financial markets and personal investing. But how do you keep your money safe?

New Seminar Series starting in September.
Visit my website at www.EphtimiosMacNeil.com or contact us at 514-981-5795 for a list of topics & dates

Regulators in Canada and the United States have implemented programs to stop cyber-fraud, but there are still many ways for swindlers to set up shop online. Increasingly, investment dealers from Canada and abroad are advertising their services on the internet, and accepting clients in jurisdictions where they are not registered. The law requires that advisors in the investment industry be registered/licensed in each province and territory where they do business.  Make sure an individual or company is registered to trade or advise in your area. In Quebec, you can contact the Autorité des marchés financiers, www.lautorite.qc.ca, or 1-877-525-0337, to find out if the person or dealer is registered in Quebec.

There have been an increasing number of complaints to regulators about misrepresentation and manipulation by cyber-schemers.  Sometimes done through online bulletin boards, or investment discussion groups, con-artists will use these groups to promote a specific investment security, create fake conversations about an investment, or provide untrue information, thereby running up the price of an investment, and providing personal gain for themselves.  Many of these posts are made through an alias or posted anonymously, making it difficult to track down the culprit.

Consider the information you get online the same way as you would if it came from a perfect stranger. If a “hot tip” sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These hot tips are seldom, if ever, true, and if you are getting some real “inside information”, remember that insider trading is illegal in Canada.

Some people who analyze and recommend investments are paid by the company whose investment they are recommending.  While this is not illegal, it should be disclosed, and some people do mention it.  If someone is super enthusiastic or really pushing a certain investment, find out why.  Ask if they are being compensated by that particular investment company.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the investment, but do your homework, and get the all the facts.

Aside from being cautious online, you also need to be wary about e-mail scams.  Typically known as “phishing”, cyber-criminals will try to gain access to your personal information through legitimate-looking e-mails with fake links, attachments, or phone numbers.  If you’re not sure if the e-mail is legitimate, don’t click on any of the links or attachments, and NEVER give any personal information. Contact the sender of the e-mail by looking up a legitimate phone number or e-mail address, NOT by replying to the questionable e-mail or using any phone number given in the e-mail.  It’s often tricky to tell when an e-mail is legitimate, or if it just looks authentic.  These e-mails often come disguised from a large, local business, which you may already deal with. A study by Verizon partners found that 23% of recipients open phishing messages, and 11% open attachments. Is that not crazy? One in ten people opens an attachment when they have no idea what they’re opening.  Unfortunately, I have known of too many people who have fallen for these scams!

Individuals are not the only ones who need to be vigilant anymore.  We have seen high-profile cyber-attacks hit virtually every industry from retail, to financial services.  An attack can not only disrupt business operations and damage a brand, but also put client’s valuable personal information at risk.  Cyber-attacks against Sony, J.P. Morgan, Target, Ashley Madison, etc., have shown the risk that cyber threats represent. Many companies are increasing investment in, and attention to, cybersecurity, and elevating awareness amongst their clients and employees.

On a related note, if you’re interested in learning more about cybersecurity:

In mid-August, the firm I work with, Richardson GMP, Canada’s largest independent wealth management firm, opened a new branch office in Pointe-Claire. It’s the first Richardson GMP branch on the West Island, and the second branch location in Quebec.  Many people will be familiar with our predecessor firms, such as Richardson Greenshields, which also had a strong presence in the Montreal area.

Our new Pointe-Claire branch will be hosting a series of workshops, with experts from various fields, addressing topics such as these:

How cybersecurity threats impacted individual investors

– What’s new in the markets

– Will, mandate in anticipation of incapacity, and power of attorney

– Insurance: protecting your wealth & leaving a legacy

These workshops, and others, will be held at various times during the day, and some will be repeated at our downtown Montreal branch. Please visit my website for the full workshop series, dates, and locations at www.EphtimiosMacNeil.com

¹ Based on The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) 2015 Factbook, 87% of Canadian Households are connected to the internet

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 20 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at 514.981.5795 or Lynn.MacNeil@RichardsonGMP.com.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Lynn MacNeil and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP Ltd. or its affiliates. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them, having regard to their own particular circumstances. Richardson GMP Limited, Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

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