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Safe Online Shopping During the Holidays!

If I could give the world a gift this holiday season, it would be to make the world a safer place to trust. You deserve to know whether or not you can trust the politicians you elect, the advice you receive from your doctor and whether or not you can entrust your privacy to the websites and businesses you use every day.

Identity theft, cyber stalking, and “big data” surveillance—these byproducts of the information economy make it hard to rest easy. Every day in the news we hear about another scam, another breach of corporate data that victimizes more than 11 million Americans a year. But you don’t  have to be a statistic!

Want more tips on how to protect yourself, your family and your wealth during the holiday season? Take a few minutes to read 12 Days to a Safe Christmas.

All of us at The Sileo Group wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Beware Cyber Security Grinches & Holiday Scams

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‘Tis the season to receive holiday scams in your email, on your Facebook page and via text. But you won’t be singing tra la la la la if you click on links that install malware on your computer! More and more of us seem to be conducting our holiday shopping online, and the cyber security Grinches are taking advantage of this new-found holiday convenience. There are several varieties of holiday scams that seem to come around each year.

The first red flag might be the Subject line of the email: “Order Confirmation”, “Acknowledgement of Order”, “Order Status”, “Thanks for Your Order”, “Problem With Your Order”, “Delivery Failure”, “Canceling Your Scheduled Delivery”, etc. It may tell you that an order is ready for you and you just need to click on the link to get the information about how to redeem it. Or, it may play on your fear of not getting a package out before Christmas and say you haven’t provided a correct address – this is a fear-based holiday scam.

Holiday scams usually appear to come from well-known companies, are VERY realistic looking and even use actual logos.

Walmart fake invoice

Home Depot fake invoiceOnce you click on the link, however, malware is installed on your computer that may gather email credentials, credit card data, logins and passwords in addition to making your computer a magnet for junk mail. It can also deploy a scanning technology that uses your computer to scan websites for vulnerabilities and then hack them!

Cyber Grinch or Real Deal? How to Tell the Difference…

If you do receive an email, scammy or otherwise, even if you did indeed order from that store, follow these steps:

  1. DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINKS IN THE EMAIL!
  2. Instead, open your web browser and type in the merchant site and log in to your account (which you had to establish to order from them).
  3. If it the email you received was about a legitimate order, they will provide you with an order or reference number which you can type into their website to verify activity.

In other words, verify that the email is legitimate by going directly to the site; don’t depend on the email. If for some reason you did click on a link that brought you to a website, make sure that you don’t click any more times on that site, and don’t fill out any information that they might be requesting.

(For more solutions to common scams related to the holidays, or really, all year long, check out our entire 12 Days to a Safe Christmas blog series.)

When not protecting readers around the holidays, John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, cyber security, internet privacy & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

10th Day: Beware the Phony Santa Claus Comin’ to Town

Holiday Security Tips: On the tenth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 10 trusted charities

Because you tend to be more giving throughout the holidays, scammers target you during this time of year. Whether they are asking for a donation to a charity, promising free iPads, claiming to be a friend in need, or are asking you to click on something outrageous or out of character, don’t fall for it.

Solution: Keep your eyes open for these common holiday scams

  • Phishing. Thieves, or hackers as they are more commonly known, will send emails that look like they are legitimately sent from a charitable organization when in real-life these are fake web sites that are designed to steal credit card information, donations and your identity. To donate, call or visit the website of a reputable charitable organization.
  • Click Jacking. Click Jacking is a type of social spam. After taking over a friend’s Facebook account, the spammer posts a message on your friend’s Facebook or Twitter page offering free gifts or recommending you donate. Since it looks like a friend has endorsed the post, it’s much easier to fall for the scam. If it’s not believable or out of character, don’t click, as it’s likely to install Malware on your system.
  • Charity or Friends-in-Distress Scams. Never send money (via check, cash or electronically) based solely on a wall post, email or phone call. Only donate to known charities and only when you have initiated the gift. Respond to wall posts, emails or phone calls for charity by contacting the charity on a reputable phone number or website.

The song tells you that you’d better not pout and better not cry; you won’t have to do either if you just watch out! On the eleventh day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

11th Day: Is that Holiday Email Really a Lump of Coal?

Holiday Security Tips: On the eleventh day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 11 private emails

During the holidays, we tend to spend more time online, searching for the perfect gift, swapping emails with friends, viewing festive holiday pictures, jokes and so on.  Cybercriminals know this and guess what?  They’re online more, too—looking for ways to lure you into scams to ruin your holidays and steal valuable information.   Here are just a few email scams to watch for:

Holiday e-card scams: Each year, more and more people are going the environmentally friendly and cost-effective route by sending holiday e-cards.  Cybercriminals, looking to install malicious software on your computer, may join in the fun and send you an e-card with an attachment to open.

Solution:  Resist your curiosity to see that adorable elf dance; only open attachments from trusted friends and family. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the e-card.

Holiday-related search term scams: We all like to be a bit more festive at the holidays, so we look for winter wonderland screensavers or our favorite carol for a ringtone.  However, these items may be disguised malware or spyware and you won’t feel so festive after it compromises and exposes the data on your computer.

Solution:  Make sure that you have protected your computer with automatically updated anti-virus software and operating system updates. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t paying cash for a download, you might be paying by giving away your free information.

Fake invoice scams: Cybercriminals know that we tend to do a lot of holiday shopping online or through catalogs.  To try to trick you into giving credit card details or other valuable information, the criminals will send fake notices, either about delivery status or phony invoices that appear to be from legitimate companies (UPS, FedEx, USPS).  They might say they need to credit your account or you need to fill out a form in order to receive the package.  When you comply, your information and/or your computer may be compromised.

Solution:  Log onto the website of the company supposedly contacting you to track your packages or get a phone number to call and check on the action requested.

If you must peek inside a package, choose the shiny one underneath your Christmas tree.  Just don’t open those scary email links! On the twelfth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

9th Day: I’m getting Nuttin’ (But Scams) for Christmas

Holiday Security Tips: On the ninth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 9 protected packages

Thieves are on the lookout for the delivery of packages, especially around the holidays.  FedEx and UPS packages might sit outside for hours, often in plain view from the street, making a mighty tempting target.  Not only can thieves grab the precious contents inside, but also the shipping labels often contain personal information the thieves love to get their hands on.

 Solution: Ship packages to your work address, or a PO Box or require a signature

If your employer doesn’t mind your receiving packages at work, have them shipped there since someone is generally available during the day (when shipments arrive).  If that doesn’t work, consider getting a PO Box at the post office during the holidays.  When all else fails, ask to have your packages shipped with signature required so that they aren’t dropped off unless someone is there to sign.

Even if you didn’t put a tack on your teacher’s chair or tie a knot in Susie’s hair, you might get nuttin’ for Christmas if you don’t outsmart the thieves.  On the tenth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

8th Day: What to Give the Person Who has Everything (and Wants to Keep it!)

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Holiday Security Tips: On the eighth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 8 scam detectors

Most of us are too busy to monitor every form of identity that is at risk. Unfortunately, victims usually get hit when they take their eye off the ball.

 Solution: Purchase a comprehensive identity monitoring service

While a partridge in a pear tree may have been appreciated in 18th century England, it’s not a very coveted item these days!  Instead, help out the ones you love (and yourself!) by giving the gift of identity theft monitoring.

Traditional credit monitoring (which you can do for free at AnnualCreditReport.com) only detects a portion of identity theft. The remaining theft occurs as a by-product of non-credit loan activities (pay-day loans, etc), shared public records (court cases, real estate transactions, government filings, etc.), Internet trading sites (bought and sold on rogue websites), or in relation to medical or criminal records. It is important to monitor these forms of potential identity theft as well as your credit file. The key here is convenience; if you don’t have to do much to monitor a large portion of your identity, the work goes down while peace of mind increases. Make sure that your monitoring service has at least the following features:

  • 3-in-1 Credit Monitoring from each of the bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion)
  • Court & Public Record Monitoring
  • Non-credit loan monitoring like pay-day loans
  • Internet Surveillance for the buying and selling of your data
  • Sex Offender Reports to make sure crimes aren’t being committed in your name
  • Identity theft insurance to cover costs if you are affected
  • Identity theft restoration services to save you time

Forget the fruitcake; buy them something they’ll truly appreciate and remember long after the holidays! On the ninth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

6th Day: Don’t Let the Grinch Steal Your Party!

Holiday Security Tips: On the sixth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 6 safe celebrations

Isn’t it unfortunate that holiday parties, at home or at work, are a major source of data theft? Crafty thieves are searching for smartphones, iPads, financial documents, checkbooks, credit and debit cards, laptops, client lists, thumb drives, files, mail, purses, wallets and all other sources of identity. The data on digital devices is a veritable goldmine equal to making off with the Roast Beast.

Solution:  During parties, lock identity behind closed doors (and away from acquaintances)

Ignore the voice of denial (it sounds like Boris Karloff) insisting that your friends, family, co-workers, vendors, customers and colleagues wouldn’t possibly steal from you. Cindy Lou Who didn’t suspect the kindly “Santie Claus” either! I hear hundreds of stories every year after my speaking engagements with the same sad ending: the victim knows the thief! Don’t assume the worst about your guests; just don’t assume anything and protect yourself preventatively.

Just before a holiday gathering, centralize all sources of identity into one locked location (like an office or bedroom with a locking door).When a potential thief disappears upstairs, you don’t have to worry about it. When the high-traffic season is over, return your house to normal (unless you regularly use a cleaning service or allow outsiders into your home).

Remember that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  Eliminating the risk up front will help you enjoy your friends, family, and coworkers at all of those holiday parties! On the seventh day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

5th Day: Don’t Tell Facebook You Won’t Be Home for the Holidays

Holiday Security Tips: On the fifth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 5 Facebook fixes

In general, we share too much information on social media sites. During the holidays, we are positively intoxicated with the giving spirit! Without thinking, we share our holiday travel plans, click on seemingly charitable links or post pictures of a fun night out. And when you share with friends on Facebook, you are sharing with their friends and ultimately, most of the literate world. The problem is, some of those people aren’t really friends and only want to separate you from your holiday dollars.

Solution:  Apply these five fixes to ALL of your social sharing (not just Facebook)

  1. Customize your privacy settings. Sixty percent of social network users are unaware that their default privacy settings let others into most of their personal information. Facebook does a decent job of explaining how to lock your privacy down(https://www.facebook.com/help/privacy) but you must spend at least 90 minutes going over the settings to properly protect yourself.
  2. Protect your passwords. Don’t let the bad guys take over your account and contact your friends as if they were you. Create a unique, strong, alpha-numeric-symbol password without using a dictionary word, birthdate, pet’s name or other personal identifier. Use this password only for a single site and don’t share it with anyone. Be careful of using your Facebook login for other sites, as those sites gain access to your private information.
  3. Log into Facebook only ONCE each session. If it looks like Facebook is asking you to log in a second time, skip the links and directly type www.facebook.com into your browser address bar. Phishing emails and social media posts will often send you to sites that look like Facebook but act like a data criminal. When in doubt, log out.
  4. Beware of free offers, big discounts and requests for charity (even if they come from your friends). If the offer in the post is too enticing, too good to be true or too bad to be real, don’t click. Chances are pretty good that your friend’s account has been hijacked and the hacker is serving you a warm dish of malware. If the post is out of character for that friend, email them and ask if it’s real.
  5. Don’t check in when you aren’t home and don’t post your travel plans. Based on social media feeds and locational check-in services alone (Foursquare), it is simple to map your whereabouts and signal thieves when you aren’t home. If you have to let friends know where you are during the holidays, send a group text or email.

No matter if you’re headin’ home for the holidays or off to Whoville, remember to post your pictures and tell those tales AFTER you’re safely home. On the sixth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

4th Day: Holiday Shopping Quiz – Is Credit or Debit Smarter?

Holiday Security Tips: On the fourth day of Christmas, the experts gave to me, 4 pay solutions!

True or False?

When you use a debit card, funds are more secure because they are drawn directly from your bank.

False.  While it’s true that funds are drawn directly from your bank, it actually makes it harder to get the money reimbursed while the issue is being resolved if fraud does occur.

 You can receive a reimbursement for debit card fraud up to a year later.

False.  Debit cards generally only reimburse fraudulent purchases if you catch them within 60 days.

 It is safer to use a credit card than a debit card.

True.  When you use a credit card, nothing is withdrawn from your bank account immediately. Pending transactions can take several days to clear. In addition, credit cards uniformly give you more protection than debit cards and your maximum liability is capped at $50.

All checks are created equal.

False.  If you have to pay by check, make sure you use high security checks. Security checks should include visible fibers, true watermarking, full-feature hologram (like on credit cards) and protection against multiple chemical alteration agents (not just fingernail polish remover).  This makes it much harder for identity thieves to “wash” your checks with acetone and put their own names in the “pay to” field. Also, sign your checks with a gel-based pen that cannot be easily dissolved.

If you failed this quiz, don’t worry, as long as you remember the answers when you’re shopping!  Wishing you straight A’s this holiday season! On the fifth day of Christmas…

To review our tips from previous days, click here.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.