Douglas Kane

Paul Michael Viollis

The 21st Century Intruder

How safe are you and your family?

October 17, 2011
by Douglas Kane and Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., PhD

One of the most important facts for the affluent community to remember, as well as advisors, is that this population does not attract the low- to moderate-level criminal. In fact, the sophisticated criminal is your adversary, including cyber hackers, identity thieves, con artists and those who perpetrate home invasions/burglaries.

Better prepared and equipped than ever before, the 21st century intruder conducts thorough due diligence as well as surveillance and phishing exercises before perpetrating a crime. From various international organized crime groups to very sophisticated U.S.-based criminal alliances, the affluent client (including their family office) is center stage in the threat arena. Why? Well, it’s simple. This community offers the greatest return on investment for the experienced criminal. They enjoy the maximum probability of financial reward while facing minimal risk. This is based upon the fact that the affluent community typically does not thoroughly protect themselves and navigates through life with a false sense of security. Please, keep in mind as you read on that it’s not personal but just business to the world’s top criminals as you are targeted to be their next victim.

State of the Union

  • Where are the risks coming from?
  • Who is truly being targeted?
  • What should advisors be saying to keep their clients safe?
  • What security measures should the affluent deploy?

Primarily, the risks to the affluent community are coming from cyber trollers and hackers on the outside and those in the inner circle such as employees, contractors and advisers on the inside. The cybercriminal, many of which have yet to conclude their teenage years, begins his/her research on the Internet, seeking out wealthy individuals. They ascertain as much as they can about them online and then test the waters to see how deep they can get into their lives. Acquired personal information is used, sold or brokered to others for future deployment. So if you’re wondering who is hacking into your computers and alarm systems, look no further. On the other hand, fraud, kidnap for ransom, home invasions, residential burglaries, grand theft, identity/data theft and extortion are a sampling of the crimes committed against the affluent community by their own employees and contractors. Let us not forget the Madoff-esque threats from financial advisers with nothing more than a country club resume and who become insulted when you request to verify their backgrounds. Go figure. Therefore, the more affluent the person, the more profitable the target or – “mark” for this intruder, dispelling the common thought, — “I’m not a celebrity, so I’m OK,” or  — “No one really knows anything about me because I’m a low-key person.”

The main contributing factors for these exploits are a lack of thorough background investigations, blind trust and absence of internal controls. Please bear in mind that the aforementioned points are facts. Alarming? Yes. True? Most definitely. Fixable? Without question. Before moving forward, let’s look briefly at the most prevalent risk probability factors to the affluent community:

  • Wealth — The more information the world has regarding your wealth or the greater the wealth, the larger the potential threat.
  • Family office — A true one-stop shop for the 21st century intruder. If this office is not protecting your information properly, don’t be surprised when something happens.
  • Celebrity status — Your location and tastes will forever be public knowledge. This intruder is not necessarily attracted to your money but to you.
  • Neighborhood — Don’t fool yourself — every affluent neighborhood in the country is nothing more than a playground for the diligent intruder to break into your life.

Oh, and to address that gated-community thought process — believing people can’t get in — we have but one question: How many contractors and delivery people are permitted access to your community everyday whom you know nothing about and require no form of identification from other than a name on a truck?

Understanding the Culture
Time-measured trust is the key ingredient in formulating a successful relationship with the affluent client. Without question, the most productive way to begin any relationship is to provide the client with a nondisclosure agreement illustrating the advisor’s commitment to protecting all information to which they are exposed.

Oftentimes, we receive calls from clients or their advisors stating exactly what they believe they need. Regardless if it is an alarm system, protection detail, security guard or a restraining order, they want it and want it now! Our usual response would be, — “If you know exactly what you need, then you don’t need us.” However, we would caution them by giving several analogies. For instance, if you feel as though you are having chest pains, do you tell your cardiologist you have a blockage and you need surgery immediately? Or does the doctor schedule an appointment so tests can be conducted to reach a diagnosis? If you hear a good stock tip at a cocktail party and contact your trusted broker to invest a large amount of money, does he do so without conducting the necessary research on the company? You say, — “Of course not,” since you trust their opinions — or you wouldn’t be dealing with them in the first place. Why do people look at their security so differently?

Being that affluent clients prefer to surround themselves with individuals they trust and who understand their needs, embracing their values and beliefs is critical, which is why no two clients are exactly alike. Hence, any strategy, whether it is insurance, financial, legal or security-related, requires a diagnostic process prior to implementing the client-specific plan. To the affluent client: If you are receiving a cookie-cutter approach, don’t walk — run away.

Protecting Privacy

We have determined that some of the most damaging information obtained by adversaries has been obtained inadvertently from friends and employees who are within the family’s inner circle. Everyone must be cautious about giving out information on the phone regarding family members, travel plans or activities. Pretext calls are frequently used to illicit confidential and personal information. They may be initiated by former employees, acquaintances, friends or individuals purporting to be job applicants.

The following precautions should be taken on a regular basis:

  • Take note of all suspicious persons loitering in the vicinity of the family, including around the residence and in public locations. Be sure to write down a complete description of the person and/or vehicle.
  • All trash identifying the client, family or containing confidential information should be put through across-cut shredder prior to being put in the trash.
  • Any lost identification or confidential information needs to be immediately addressed.
  • Family information should be discussed on a need-to-know basis, and discussions should not take place in public locations.
  • Employees should immediately report any arrests or civil litigation since this may make them a target for compromise.
  • Ensure all new hires are subject to background investigations.
  • Employees who are being terminated or resign should be required to have an exit interview and be instructed that the confidentiality agreement they originally signed will remain in force.

Now that we have crafted the necessary overview, the sections to follow will take you through the entire best-practice process, from diagnosing risk to the formulation and implementation of the required deliverables.

From The RCS Files — Vail Vacation

Prior to meeting with a new family, we routinely conduct a preliminary cyber search to obtain a better understanding of the family, including number of children, ages, where they attended school, hobbies, etc. It was determined that there was extensive publicly available information regarding this particular family; however, the information overall was not increasing the threat level to family members, and no pictures of the children were discovered. Further research determined a Facebook account for one of the younger daughters. Listed on the site were pictures of family members, pictures and names of the family dogs (and the fact they were extremely friendly) and pictures of the family vacation home in Vail, Colo. It was further explained when they would be there on vacation and a variety of other information any kidnapper, pedophile or household burglar would love to have.

Do you know what your kids post on the Web?

This article has been excerpted from Silent Safety: Best Practices for Protecting the Affluent. The publication can be purchased at CPA2Biz.com.

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Paul Michael Viollis, Sr., PhD, is co-founder and CEO of Risk Control Strategies (RCS). Prior to that, he worked for 30 years in the criminal justice field. Douglas Kane is co-founder and president of RCS. Prior to that, he was a 27-year veteran of the FBI, where he developed an expertise in criminal investigations, strategic planning, crisis resolution, and tactical leadership of comprehensive security operations worldwide.