Financial Advisor Loses $50K To A Scammer

April Blog 1Horror stories of people getting scammed out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars aren’t in short supply. As we scroll through the news app from the comfort of our couch, reading these accounts of how a stupid so-and-so opened an obviously suspicious attachment and a hacker drained their bank account, it’s easy to say things like “I’d never fall for that!” But would you?

The sobering truth is that, under the right conditions and with the right threat, anyone can fall victim to a financially devastating scam. This reality was recently demonstrated when a finance guru, someone armed with enough financial acumen to publicly advise others, lost $50,000 to a scammer pretending to be a CIA agent.

Charlotte Cowles, a seasoned financial advice columnist for New York Magazine’s digital fashion news site, The Cut, wrote a first-person account of how she boxed up $50,000 in cash in a shoebox, walked it out to the sidewalk in front of her house and willingly handed it over to an unknown person in a white Mercedes SUV. Looking back, she was humiliated that she couldn’t see the red flags, but the way these criminals intricately plotted every step would have convinced most people.

I suggest giving her detailed story a read, but to give you the nutshell version, this elaborate scam started early in the day when a woman from “Amazon’s customer service” called to inquire about unusual activity on Charlotte’s account. The woman told her this has been a frequent issue for the company, provided a case number ID and recommended Charlotte check her credit cards immediately. She shared that the issue was so prevalent that the company was working with a liaison at the Federal Trade Commission and offered to refer her to him for additional assistance.

Once connected, the FTC agent provided his badge number for reassurance and a direct number to reach him at, and confirmed personal details like her full name and Social Security number. Convincing, right? That’s when things took a turn. The agent shared that he had been following her case for some time, and to date, there were 22 bank accounts, nine vehicles and four properties registered under her name. The bank accounts had wired more than $3 million overseas, mostly to Jamaica and Iraq, and he wondered if she could tell him anything about this.

This crazy scheme escalated from there. The agent texted her a photo of her ID, claiming it had been found in a car rented under her name that was abandoned on the southern border of Texas with blood and drugs in the trunk and was linked to an even bigger drug raid. He told her there were warrants out for her arrest in multiple states and that she was facing heavy charges of cybercrime, money laundering and drug trafficking.

She frantically googled her name, looking for any warrants. Nothing. Sensing her rising discomfort, he asked if she had recently used public WiFi. She had, at the airport. “Ahh…” he said, “that’s how most of these things start.”

As she texted her husband that she was in serious trouble, the agent offered her a solution, but she could tell no one. Everyone was a suspect, and they were watching her every move. The agent said her laptop was hacked, her home was being watched and they could even see her two-year-old son playing in the living room right now. At the mention of her son, she was all in to resolve the problem. Sadly, you know the heartbreaking ending of the story. She drained her savings and hand-delivered it in a floral-printed shoebox to the scammer.

Here’s the real kicker: if Cowles, armed with financial acumen and a journalist’s skepticism, can be led astray, what chance do the rest of us stand? It’s a digital Wild West out there, folks, and the outlaws are on the prowl, looking for their next big score. This tale isn’t just a wake-up call – it’s a blaring siren for small business owners everywhere. If you think you’re too smart to get scammed, think again, because it’s happening all the time.

When Charlotte began to share her story, everyone seemed to know someone who had gone up against a scammer and lost. One friend’s criminal-defense-attorney father had been scammed out of $1.2 million. Another was a real estate developer duped into wiring $450,000 to someone posing as one of his contractors. Even a Wall Street executive, who had been conned into draining her 401(k) by a guy she met at a bar. These stories are everywhere.

Cyber security cannot be ignored. With the AI tools available, scams are becoming more and more difficult to identify. If you want to protect yourself, your family and your business, you absolutely MUST take your security seriously. Every day, hackers are buying and selling personal information, like Charlotte’s Social Security number, on the dark web to hackers who will use it to run scams just like this one. You or your loved ones could be next.

This ISN’T meant to scare you, although it should; it’s meant to educate you and give you the upper hand to go up against these criminals. To protect what’s yours. The best way we can help is to offer a FREE Cyber Security Risk Assessment. We’ll do an in-depth evaluation of your network’s security system, including scanning the dark web for leaked information, and provide you with a comprehensive report of what you need to do to be secure.

Suspect Your Computer Has Been Hacked? Do These 5 Things Now!

April Blog 2

The initial reaction when you suspect your computer or network has been compromised is to panic. However, if your network has been breached, what you do next can make the difference between the incident being a minor inconvenience and being a devastating disaster that brings legal trouble and huge fines, and halts your ability to do business.

In today’s article, we’ve consulted our cyber security experts on the top signs of an affected computer and the five steps you need to take as soon as you notice your network has been compromised to prevent as much irreversible damage as possible.

Signs Of An Issue

According to IBM’s latest cyber security report, the average data breach goes 277 days before it’s noticed and reported. This time frame sounds crazy considering that attacks using malware, viruses, keylogging tools and more can cause a considerable amount of damage very quickly, but most users miss the warning signs and don’t realize they’re under attack until irreversible damage has occurred.

Several of the biggest indicators of an issue can be mistaken for a slow or outdated computer or operating system. If you experience any of these issues, it’s a good idea to contact your IT team. If it’s an attack, they’ll know the proper steps to take, and if it’s not, they’ll be able to update your system or replace your device to improve performance. Here are a few key signs your computer could be infected:

  • Slow computer or network performance
  • Frequent freezes or sudden crashes
  • Rapid pop-ups
  • Locked user accounts
  • Sudden and unexpected file changes
  • Abnormal system behavior, such as the device continuing to run after a shutdown
  • Unusual account activity

What To Do Next

If you’re experiencing any of these issues, the next steps you take are important. Here is what our team of experts recommends:

1. Take the network offline to isolate the incident, but DO NOT turn off the device or reboot it.

When a device isn’t working the way it should, the go-to move is to hit Restart. In many scenarios, that maneuver can work; however, if malware is involved, this simple act can make the situation worse. In some circumstances, rebooting your device can set in motion a crashed file-encryption process that can cause unrecoverable data loss. Disconnect your device from the network but allow it to remain on as you move through the next steps.

2. Call your IT team IMMEDIATELY.

It’s important to contain the breach before it infects the rest of your network or causes any more damage. Your IT team will be able to investigate the issue to determine what went wrong and what the impact was, and mitigate the breach quickly. Do not try to fix this on your own. Attempting to run a “system cleanup” or your antivirus software will waste time and could cause more damage. Call in the experts.

3. Call your attorney.

There are several reasons to call your attorney. Depending on the size of the breach, your attorney may refer you to outside legal counsel with privacy and data security expertise who can advise you on the federal and state laws that may be implicated by the data breach.

4. Change passwords and secure all accounts.

As the IT team is working on containing the breach, you’ll want to change your passwords to protect any of your other accounts that may not have been affected yet. Hopefully you have multifactor authentication enabled and will be notified if someone tries to access your account, but if not, begin working through your accounts to secure them, starting with ones that contain financial information like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and more.

5. Check your bank accounts.

Nearly all cyber-attacks are financially motivated, making bank accounts the primary target. As the breach is being mitigated, check your bank accounts and payment processing tools, including third-party merchant accounts and employee payroll systems, for any anomalies or sudden changes.

If you’re hit by a cyber-attack, there will be a list of other steps to take, like implementing a PR communications plan, notifying appropriate parties such as law enforcement and more. The most important thing you can do if a data breach occurs is to isolate the incident and hand it over to a qualified cyber security professional as soon as possible. Time matters in these situations.

If you need a reliable, trustworthy cyber security team monitoring your business, start with a FREE Cyber Security Risk Assessment. These assessments are designed to thoroughly examine your network to pinpoint any vulnerabilities and map out a plan to fix them. It is much more cost-effective to prevent a cyber-attack than to fix one, so book your assessment today by going to or calling 814-742-7700.

How $43,000 Got Stolen From A Small Business In The Blink Of An Eye

What you are about to read is a real story showing you how a business can be devastated by cybercriminals in the blink of an eye. Most importantly, I’ll share several ways this could have been avoided. Make sure to forward this to anyone who might be making online payments and, better yet, your entire staff. The name of the company and principals have been withheld so they don’t become a further target.

$43,000 Gone In The Blink Of An Eye

Imagine, on a normal Friday night after a long week of work, you glance down at your phone and see an alert from your bank.

You open it to find that you’ve just paid a company you’ve never heard of $43,000!

This was an all-too-real situation for one small business owner a few weeks ago – and there’s NOTHING the owner, or police, or anyone else can do to get that money back. It’s gone forever.

Thankfully, for this company, $43,000 was a loss they could absorb, but it was still a huge hit and, frankly, they are lucky they weren’t taken for more.

Here’s what happened and how you can keep this from happening to you.

The E-mail That Started It All

Imagine receiving an e-mail so convincing, so utterly devoid of red flags, that you find yourself compelled to act. This isn’t a failure of judgment; it’s a testament to the sophistication of modern cyberthreats.

In this case, an employee in the accounting department received an e-mail from the company’s “CEO” saying they were starting to work with a new company and needed to get them set up in the system and make a payment to them right away.

This was NOT an abnormal type of e-mail, nor was the amount anything that aroused suspicion – they made and received large amounts of money often.

The only telltale clue might have been that it came in on a Friday afternoon and it was made clear that it was an urgent matter that had to be handled right away.

The employee, thinking they were doing exactly what their boss wanted, set the attacker’s company up in the system, including their bank routing number, and made a payment. And the minute they hit “Send,” the money was never to be seen again.

It wasn’t until the CEO called minutes later, after receiving notification of the transfer, that alarm bells started to ring! But by then it was all too late.

So What Happened?

While it’s impossible to know what exactly occurred to kick off this chain of events, the most likely culprit is that an employee, possibly even the owner, received an e-mail sent by a cybercriminal weeks or even months earlier that allowed this person to gain access to some of the company’s systems.

In all likelihood, the e-mail looked normal and had a link that, when clicked, downloaded software onto the recipient’s computer, and that’s where things started to go wrong.

Over the following weeks, the cybercriminals accessed company communications, figuring out who the players were, and devised a plan to make it look like the CEO needed a vendor to be paid urgently.

And when the criminals determined the time was right, they “attacked” and walked away with $43,000 for their efforts.

Home Alone

While this scenario may sound far-fetched, it’s not new.

If you remember seeing the classic movie Home Alone, would-be thieves watched houses immediately preceding Christmas to determine which families would be away for the holidays so they could break into those homes.

Cybercriminals do the same thing, but from a distance, and you’d never know they were ever there.

The scary fact is, your system could be compromised right now, and you would have no way of knowing it, until an attack happens.

In the cybercrime world, the kind of attack this company suffered is referred to as spear phishing. Criminals identify a single point or person in an organization who they believe could fall victim to a scam like the one that happened here, and they engineer a scheme to specifically target them.

What You And Your Employees Need To Know To Help Thwart Attacks

The sad fact is that there is no 100% safeguard against cybercriminals. But, just like our robbers in Home Alone, cybercriminals go after the low-hanging fruit. If your house has a gated entry, security system, outside cameras and lights, and has three vicious-looking dogs roaming around, would-be thieves are much more likely just to move on to a house without all these layers of security.

Cybercriminals operate in the exact same fashion, looking for companies that aren’t protected and then targeting them specifically. So, the best thing you can do is have layers of protection for your company, along with education for your employees.

3 Things To Do Right Now To Protect Your Company

  1. Multi-factor authentication (MFA), also called two-factor authentication (2FA), is not just a tool but also a shield against the relentless barrage of cyberthreats. An example of MFA is when you try to log into a program and it sends a code to your cell phone via text that needs to be entered before granting access to the program. While often deemed a nuisance, MFA isn’t an inconvenience – it’s the digital equivalent of locking your doors at night. It’s a simple yet profoundly effective measure that can be the difference between a secure business and a cautionary tale.
  2. Employees are your first line of defense. Just like you’d teach your kids not to open the door for someone they don’t know, you NEED to educate your employees on malicious threats. Teaching them about the common scams, how to avoid them and what to do if they think they’ve inadvertently clicked a link they shouldn’t have, is key. You need to ask your IT company to provide this training, and often they have programs that you can require your employees go through a couple of times a year. The program then quizzes them to ensure they have the knowledge. While this process isn’t something you or they will look forward to, the reality is that it could take just 10 to 15 minutes a couple times a year to keep you out of the news and your money out of someone else’s account!
  3. Get cyber security services in place. MFA is just the start of a comprehensive security plan. You need to talk to a qualified company (not your uncle Larry who helps you on the side) about getting more than a firewall and virus scan software. What worked a decade or two ago – and may still be helpful on a home network – would be like protecting a bank vault with a ring camera. It’s just not going to cut it. NOTE: We offer a variety of security services for companies of all sizes and can certainly talk to you about options that make sense for your situation.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Do This!!!

Maybe the worst thing the owner of the company that lost $43,000 did was they then posted a video and story on social media.

While their intentions were good because they wanted to warn other business owners not to fall victim to the same scam, they might as well have had T-shirts made with a big target on the back.

It’d be like having cash from your house taken, then going online and telling people exactly how it happened – you’re just inviting more people to come try to take your cash.

Not Sure If You’re As Protected And Prepared As You Should Be?

To make sure you’re properly protected, get a FREE, no-obligation Cyber Security Risk Assessment. During this assessment, we’ll review your entire system so you know exactly if and where you’re vulnerable to an attack.

Schedule your assessment with one of our senior advisors by calling us at 814-742-7700 or going to

Pirates Aren’t Just Threats On The Open Seas

“Know Ye That We Have Granted And Given License To Adam Robernolt and William le Sauvage…to annoy our enemies by sea or by land, wheresoever they are able, so that they share with us the half of all their gain.”

These were the words of King Henry III of England as he issued one of the first letters of marque, effectively employing private sailors to bolster his naval power and fill the royal coffers, all under the guise of lawful privateering. This clever maneuver not only financed the kingdom’s ambitions but also paved the way for the discovery and plunder of new worlds, all at the expense of England’s adversaries.

Fast-forward several centuries, and we find the essence of privateering alive and well, albeit in a new battlefield: cyberspace. Today, businesses, particularly in the United States, find themselves at the mercy of digital privateers.

Recently, the FBI testified before Congress that the People’s Republic of China was preparing to “sow chaos” by taking down the US power grid, oil pipelines and water systems in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.

As small business owners, you are not mere spectators in this digital skirmish but frontline warriors. The misconception that cyber security is a concern reserved for larger entities couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the agility and often less fortified digital defenses of small businesses make you prime targets for these modern-day privateers.

The revelation of these threats isn’t meant to dishearten but to awaken a recognition of the critical need for robust cyber security measures. The landscape has shifted, and the onus is on you to protect your enterprise from digital marauders.

The good news? There’s a silver lining in the form of unprecedented opportunity for those ready to fortify their defenses.

Consider this: The investment in cyber security is not merely a safeguard but a strategic advantage. The narrative has evolved from viewing digital protection as an operational cost to recognizing it as a cornerstone of business resilience and growth. CEOs and business leaders are now acknowledging the indispensability of cyber security and integrating it into their core business strategies.

So, where do you stand in this evolving scenario?

This moment calls for reflection, for a candid assessment of your cyber security posture. Are you prepared for the digital equivalent of a storm at sea? Have you charted a course that not only navigates through these treacherous waters but also seizes the opportunities they present?

The urgency cannot be overstated. The threats are real, and the consequences of inaction grave.

We’ve made it easy for you to take the next step toward a proactive defense and invite you to join us for a complimentary 15-minute discovery call. On this call, we’ll get an idea of where your business stands to see if it makes sense to have further discussions. To do this, simply call us at 814-742-7700 or go to:

The era of digital privateering is upon us, but so is the opportunity for unparalleled growth and security. Let’s embark on this journey together, safeguarding your enterprise and securing its future in the digital frontier.

6 Common Technology Problems Small Business Owners Face

Technology can provide a strategic advantage for companies in every industry when properly utilized. However, one of the biggest issues small business owners face is overcoming some of the common tech obstacles that hinder productivity. These issues can range from minor inconveniences to serious threats that can permanently shut down a business.

In today’s blog, we’ve outlined 6 of the most common technology problems small business owners deal with on a regular basis and how you can either avoid or resolve them.

1. Failing To Meet Industry-Specific Compliance Requirements

Many industries have specific regulatory compliance requirements that define how companies must organize and protect data. Common examples you might be familiar with include HIPAA, which regulates electronic medical data in the health care industry; FFIEC, GLB and SEC in the financial services industry; and CMMC for companies that work directly or indirectly with the Department of Defense.

For a small business owner wearing many hats, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest compliance requirements, especially if you don’t have an IT or cyber security employee on staff. Missing a requirement cannot only lead to hefty fines and legal issues but it can also incidentally leave you vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

The best thing you can do is work with a managed services provider (MSP) that has experience in compliance for your specific industry. While compliance is not exactly the same as cyber security, the two overlap, and an experienced provider will be able to help you bridge the gap so you’re protected and meeting any mandatory requirements.

Click here to get a FREE Network Assessment so you’ll know if you’re currently missing any mandatory compliance requirements for your organization.

2. Lack Of Strategic IT Planning

One of the biggest issues we see is a disjointed relationship between the business leaders in the organization and the IT team. In this digital age, technology is an integral part of how a business operates. When business leaders, who tend to see the larger picture, loop in IT professionals, they can make informed decisions about what technology to deploy to make long-term growth and scalability easier and more efficient.

Several areas in which your IT team should act as a strategic advisor are:

  • Optimizing business operations to streamline processes and improve productivity
  • Selecting the best line of business software
  • Upgrading old or outdated hardware and software
  • Implementing cyber security best practices
  • Deploying cost-effective and scalable cloud solutions
  • Creating a predictable IT budget that doesn’t rely on break-fix solutions

3. Inadequate Cyber Security Protection

Cyber security risks become more advanced every year. Decisions about cyber security should not be solely left to the IT department. These are business decisions that need to be made with the buy-in of the leadership team because failing to have a robust cyber security system and becoming the victim of a cyber-attack can be detrimental to a business. There are trade secrets, confidential communications, customer data and employee records that are stored on your company’s devices that you can’t afford to have fall into the wrong hands.

Work with your IT team to deploy a three-pronged approach that includes:

Prevention Strategies: Do you have the right software and solutions in place, such as antivirus, firewalls, MFA, etc., to protect your organization from an attack? Are you regularly training employees on the latest threats and how to identify them?

Detection Mechanisms: This is a key piece that most small businesses neglect, which leaves them vulnerable. Do you have a process in place for detecting a breach, or would it go unnoticed until it’s a bigger problem? You should be conducting regular scans and monitoring, as well as employing endpoint detection and response tools.

Response And Recovery Action Steps: Do you have a plan in place if something goes wrong? Would your employees know what to do? You need to have an IT team supporting you that can identify and mitigate any issues quickly, before the damage can’t be undone. Leaders in the organization should take this seriously.

4. Poor User Support

If your employees are struggling with their technology all day, productivity will decrease. Using slow, outdated devices and software can be frustrating for employees, leaving them feeling less motivated and hindering their output. It’s even worse when you have unreliable technical support following the “get to it when we get to it” approach.

With the right IT team, whether that’s in-house staff, outsourced support or, more commonly, a combination of both, you can trust that an experienced technician with the tools and knowledge to quickly assist employees and solve problems will always be available to help.

5. Poor User Asset Management

Managing access to various levels of data for each employee can be tedious and overwhelming in larger organizations. IT professionals can take on the role of managing and monitoring user access so that no one has access to data they don’t need, security policies are enforced and accounts are constantly monitored for anomalies.

They can also assign new users, make changes to existing accounts, delete accounts, add remote users, set permissions on how employees can access the network and more. This is particularly important when it comes to offboarding employees. Whether the employee is leaving on good terms or not, removing data access from someone who has access to sensitive information can be risky and needs to be handled with care.

6. Lack Of Training

As mentioned, making sure your employees know how to use technology efficiently is paramount to productivity, but it’s also important for security reasons. All employees should regularly go through cyber security training to ensure they understand and are following best practices.

This is typically not the role of the business leaders in the company. Most often, they need refresher courses too. When you work with a reliable IT team, they’ll be able to regularly inform team members of new threats and what to look out for, run phishing simulations to test employees on whether or not they know what to do and more. One training session is NOT enough! To build a cyber security–focused culture, you need to be talking about it often.

Is it time to solve your IT problems once and for all?

We have your back. To get started, book a FREE, no-obligation Network Assessment. We’ll review your systems using our #-Point Optimization Checklist to let you know how and where your organization can better utilize technology to grow.

To Schedule Your FREE Assessment, Please Visit Or Call Our Office At 814-742-7700.