Online Scams and Identity Theft

Jessica Cafferata, JD, CFP®, CDFA®   


At Callan Capital, we are committed to cybersecurity awareness, education, and training. It is our hope that the following is helpful for you, your family, and friends as a resource for cybercrime prevention, knowledge, and mitigation. This is part of a monthly cyber awareness series is aimed at helping our clients avoid cybercrime.

A key component of many scams is a sense of urgency coming from the scammer. Almost all cybersecurity scams are set up as emergencies – something that must be addressed right away. Your ability to slow down and step away is the difference between a close call and becoming a victim. Scammers often create scams based on what is in the news. Stimulus checks, student loan forgiveness, tax law changes, government programs (social security, Medicare, IRS), Coronavirus (new variant scams, selling fake at-home tests), cryptocurrency giveaways and investment opportunities are examples of recent scams.

Texts can be scams with links to scammers’ websites or apps. Even robocalls for auto warranties, vacations, funeral expenses, emergency payments (your child has been kidnapped) and threats are all tactics cybercriminals use. Scams target smart cars, VA benefits, health insurance, unemployment payment, and even your emotions with sweetheart/romance scams. If the cybercriminal does not choose to benefit personally, your stolen personal information is for sale, and it is shockingly cheap to buy. For example, stolen online banking logins with a minimum of $2,000 in the account sells for a mere $65 and hacked Gmail accounts for $80 (see Dark Web Pricing).

Corporations, governments, and businesses face cyber risk, too. Some of the biggest data breaches ranked by impact include LinkedIn (2021) 700MM users exposed, Facebook (2019) 533MM users exposed, Twitter (2018) 330MM users exposed, Marriott (2018) 500MM guests exposed, Experian (2017) 200MM accounts exposed, Equifax 2017) 147MM accounts exposed, Yahoo (2017) $3BN accounts exposed, and Uber (2016) (see Biggest Data Breaches).

Recommended Steps to Mitigate Risk

  1. Freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus. Credit freezes may thwart unauthorized access to your file by limiting credit checks and are free of charge and it is easy to freeze and unfreeze your credit. A credit lock is preferable to a credit freeze because it provides other services too, such as alerts when there’s new credit activity on your accounts at any of the three bureaus, assistance for credit and fraud resolution, and up to $1MM in identity theft insurance. Freeze or lock your minor children’s and grandchildren’s credit as well.
  2. Consider monthly reviews of your credit at all three bureaus, financial statements, healthcare explanation of benefits, social security, and other benefits. Insureds often overlook healthcare reviews, but cybercriminals use the data for insurance fraud, ransom, identity theft, and even for malice (changing blood type, prescriptions, allergies

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Disclaimer: Callan Capital does not provide individual tax or legal advice, nor does it provide financing services. Clients should review planned financial transactions and wealth transfer strategies with their own tax and legal advisors. Callan Capital outsources to lending and financial institutions that directly provide our clients with, securities-based financing, residential and commercial financing and cash management services. For more information, please refer to our most recent Form ADV Part 2A which may be found at