Stay Protected

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While wealth has its privileges, it also has risks. An Insite/Zogby survey from July 6, 2011 revealed that random street crime, home invasion, and mugging are keeping 92 percent of the high net worth individuals they surveyed awake at night—not identity theft and cyber attacks. Nearly 50 percent said they are concerned for their safety when traveling, and 39 percent have taken steps in the past year to increase their personal security, either at home or in the workplace. In fact, the trend is that some people with significant wealth are choosing to go low-key—55 percent of respondents said they are limiting “flashy” purchases to lower external awareness of their wealth.

 

In this age of 24/7 news and the Internet,information about us is everywhere.Those with their guards down may be vulnerable on many fronts, which is why increasingly more high and ultra-high net worth individuals and families are turning to security professionals for protection.

“Those with wealth or who are perceived to have wealth offer the potential of a huge windfall to predators, which may make them considerably more vulnerable,” explains Christopher Falkenberg, founder and president of Insite Security, a security and risk management firm for high net worth individuals and corporations in New York.

 

“A little bit of due diligence about being careful may mitigate that vulnerability and save you a lot of money, litigation, and heartache,” adds Peter Turecek, a senior managing director with Kroll, a risk consulting firm based in New York.

 

What the Pros Can Do to Help Protect You

Most firms start with an in-depth security and risk assessment to help identify potential points of vulnerability—from what information is available in the public domain, to who is on the household staff, to what sort of security systems are in place at home, at work, and for all technologies such as computers.

 

Once the assessments are completed, there are a wide range of strategies that firms implement to take on cyber thieves, travel dangers, family office vulnerabilities, communication security gaps, residential loopholes, and crisis management—the array of areas unique to the wealthy.

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One place where there is often vulnerability is household staff. In fact, 58 percent of industrial espionage is perpetrated by current or former employees, according to Risk Control Strategies’ 2011 Statistics Sheet. There is a litany of important questions to consider: Is there significant turnover of staff? How are they vetted prior to employment? Are background checks done? Does staff have access to sensitive information or access to the checkbook? What kind of security is on the property? Are there guards, cameras, panic buttons, and/or alarms?

 

Travel can also be a soft spot. How often does the individual travel, where do they travel, how do they travel? “Someone might be involved in a charity and go to a developing country where they haven’t traveled and they don’t know any security techniques,” says Turecek. “We provide tips such as which cabs to avoid, to have the hotel set them up with a car service, to keep the windows rolled up, to keep their jewelry and electronic devices to a minimum.”

 

There also should be a sweeping IT assessment at home and at the business, says Jared Stern, CEO of Prudential Associates, a risk management and consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland. Approximately 80 percent of computer crime is committed by “insiders,” those with permitted access.

The big minefield is the Internet. What is being said, where, by whom? “We do spot checks of a client’s privacy, to see what’s out there about the client: Are there ways that people can access a client’s itinerary via social media or are clients (or others working with or living with them) too open about their lives, including providing locations and activities through sites like Facebook or Foursquare?” says Turecek.

 

What to Look for in a Pro Security

No doubt, bringing on board a security professional, whether on retainer or for a one-time project, is a task not to be taken lightly. Often, generic, off-the-shelf products may not be best, particularly if several homes and businesses are owned.

 

Falkenberg recommends you chose your security team with as much care as you’d use selecting a doctor or financial advisor. Ask friends, family, insurance agents, financial advisors, and others you trust for leads.

 

Once you have a few candidates, “ask about their credentials and experience, and, more importantly, determine how those skills are relevant to you. Maybe they worked for the FBI or are on the police force—what matters most to you? There is no barrier to entry to this profession, unlike law. Know who you’re dealing with and vet them properly,” points out Falkenberg.

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The firm that is best for you may be based on your profile. “If you travel the world, then you might want a global firm. If you’re very local, then a local firm might work. You want a firm with a long history in the business, that offers breadth and depth of services, and has resources,” says Turecek.

 

There’s no magic bullet that will protect you 100 percent of the time. Says Stern: “We tell people we can help them be better prepared, have fewer events and, when they occur, help make it so they cost less to resolve. Some believe security is too costly but may regret not having better safeguards.”

 

You’ve got a Rep to Protect

“Seventy-five percent of a company’s value is tied to its reputation,” says Noah Lang, director of business development for Reputation.com, which offers services to repair reputations, create an online presence, and hide personal information.

 

Whether a blogger is insulting your credibility, a competitor is bashing your business, or disgruntled employees are talking badly about you, chatter on the Internet can be costly.

 

“It’s about reputational data and privacy—your personal information. High net worth individuals are targets,” says Lang.

How can you protect yourself, your family, and your business?

 

1. Be proactive. Look yourself up. Start with Google and Bing. What’s there? How are people talking about you? What is being said about your family, your politics, net worth, and home value, for example? Information is easy to find and can be used by a cyber stalker. What exposure do you have on sites like Intelius and Spokeo? What private information is public?” says Lang.

 

2. Beat others to your domain. Make a website in your name. Lang recommends buying the domain rights to your first and last name. “You want to be in control of your name,” he says.

 

3. Create your persona. Establish yourself on Twitter and Facebook, but make sure the public sees only what you want them to. Double-check your privacy settings.

 

 

Know, too, that 90 percent of people don’t go past page one of a search, “so take control of the first 10 to 20 searches” to push down the negative material, says Lang.

 

Lastly, he says, “Everything done online affects the offline. There is a huge financial value attached to reputation.”

 

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