For thousands of viewers, the latest Bourne techno-thriller may be escapist fun. But Paul Viollis probably views it as a documentary.
Viollis is the CEO of security firm Risk Control Strategies (www.riskcontrolstrategies.com) and is the Personal Security Consultant for Chubb. The insurance company's high-end Signature and VIP customers get complimentary access to the security and advice his company can provide. In today's high-tech world, that means a lot more than installing deadbolts on the door.
"We handle ID theft, stolen art, home security, extortion, missing persons, and personal threats via email. We also provide due diligence on investments, and background checks on domestic staff," says Viollis.
Is a family having a wedding on its estate? "We design the entire special event security," he continues. In fact, RCS can create special invitations with embossed holograms that are virtually impossible to counterfeit. Of course, if the family is building a new home, RCS can make it secure from the ground up. "We design a security based on an architect's plans, with perimeter alarms, sensors around the dock if it's on the water, and electronics alerts on the edge of the estate."
One of the biggest risks, however, comes from phone and Internet communication, he says. "It's easy to track the affluent. Almost every high-end client donates money. To whom? Do you know if it's being posted on site? It usually leaves a public record, and cyber-trollers track wealthy people. Who bought a Picasso? Who made a big donation? Where do they live?" A cordless phone is very easy to tap into, so Viollis suggests switching to Internet-based calls, called "Voice-Over Internet Protocol," or "VoIP." "You run the calls through a highly encrypted, dedicated server inside your home. Now, every time you communicate, you're secure."
However, these same people are also likely to travel a great deal, and once they're out of the home, they can expose themselves to electronic invasion. Viollis advises everyone to avoid connecting wirelessly in public places like airports. "Yes, it's very convenient. But it's very easy for a pro to hack in while they sit next to you," he explains. "If you want to be safe, get to a secure connection, communicate through a virtual private network (VPN) tunnel. In the tunnel, you stay 'dry.'"
RCS also offers technological surveillance countermeasures. That is, it provides a defense against bugs and wiretapping using proprietary systems. Other services run the range from business to domestic. For example, RCS can analyze threatening documents sent to the CEO of a newly public company. It can also help protect the CEO's teenage daughter who may be receiving disturbing messages through a social networking Web site.
Viollis also stresses that security needs often increase when your clients cross international borders. RCS can quickly assemble country-specific reports for clients that cover general crime issues, political stability, local airport security and even roads and car services to avoid.
Even for those who don't use its services directly or through Chubb, RCS offers tips on identity theft protection on its Web site. These include
??Performing comprehensive background screening on all employees, contractors, etc. with access to residence or business;
??Ordering and examining a credit report from each of the three major bureaus at least once a year;
??Closing or canceling any credit cards no longer in use;
??Asking different people to pick your mail up when traveling for extended periods;
??Always using a U.S. Postal Service mailbox to send mail or pay bills and install a locking mailbox at home;
??Ensuring that effective and efficient firewall and anti-virus software is installed on all personal and company servers and hardware; using secure and unique passwords on all accounts;
Another good site for Internet protection is the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The site suggests the following commonsense steps to avoid Internet fraud when going online:
??Ensure Web sites are secure prior to submitting your credit card number.
??Do your homework to ensure the business or Web site is legitimate.
??Attempt to obtain a physical address, rather than a P.O. box or maildrop.
??Be aware of missed bills which could indicate your account has been taken over.
??Be cautious of scams requiring you to provide your personal information.
??Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you make the call.
??Monitor your credit statements monthly for any fraudulent activity.
??Report unauthorized transactions to your bank or credit card company as soon as possible.
The site also has an online complaint center that allows consumers who believe they were defrauded to lodge a complaint.
Richard J. Koreto (firstname.lastname@example.org) is editor-in-chief of Wealth Manager.