Posts

Study Shows Identity Theft of Children 51X More Likely

Based on a recent assessment of 40,000+ SSNs of children, it was found that more than 10% those SSNs were being used by someone other than the child, far in excess of the rate of misuse in the adult population. The study points out the major issues that surround child identity theft and why we need to start paying attention now. It is more prevalent than many think and the threat is growing. Here are a few of the statistics that were found:

  • 4,311 or 10.2% of the children in the report had someone else using their Social Security number – 51 times higher than the 0.2% rate for adults in the same population
  • Child IDs were used to purchase homes and automobiles, open credit card accounts, secure employment and obtain driver’s licenses
  • The largest fraud ($725,000) was committed against a 16 year old girl
  • The youngest victim was five months old; 303 victims were under the age of five

Read the Entire Report

Parents need to stop ignoring child identity theft. It is one thing to ignore it for yourself, but failing to protect children, who are otherwise helpless to this crime, shows a definite lack of parental responsibility.

Acting now on behalf of your child will protect them from consequences common to child victims. Click on Child Identity Theft Protection Tips to learn more about the steps you should take.

 

John Sileo’s motivational keynote speeches train organizations to play aggressive information offense before the attack, whether that is identity theft, data breach, cyber crime, social networking exposure or human fraud. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com or call him directly on 800.258.8076.

 

iPhone Location Tracking Leads to Privacy Lawsuit

Apple has been hit with a lawsuit in Florida alleging the company is violating iPhone user’s privacy and committing computer fraud. The case came in response to news that the iPhone maintains a time stamped location log, and that data is also stored on user’s computers.

The lawsuit was filed in Federal court in Tampa Florida on April 25 by two customers who claimed Apple was tracking iPhone owner’s movements without consent, according to Bloomberg.

The case was filed after word that the iPhone and iPad with 3G support maintains an unencrypted log file showing where users are based on cell tower triangulation. That file is transferred to user’s computers during the sync process with iTunes and is maintained as part of the device’s backup file collection.

Location logging has been active in the iPhone and 3G iPad since the release of iOS 4 last June, which means some users have nearly a year’s worth of data stored away. Apple is denying that they are actively tracking user locations.

Click Here to Read More…

Award-winning author and identity theft keynote speaker John Sileo trains executives and employees to respect and protect the data that makes their company profitable. His clients included the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FDIC, Pfizer, Blue Cross and organizations of all sizes. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076 or watch him deliver an Identity Theft Speech.

Comprehensive Opt Out List for Marketing Databases

Major data breaches like the recent Epsilon Breach occur frequently, even if you don’t hear about all of them. With all the publicity surrounding this particular breach, people have been asking how to remove themselves from some of those marketing lists that are frequently compromised.

Opting our of marketing databases is one way to lower your risk of becoming a data breach victim.

So, how do I get out of marketing data bases?

Most databases allow you to opt out of having them share and sell your information, you just need to find out how.  Many sites make it tricky to get this done, but most sites that are selling or harvesting your information allow you to do so one way or another.

The Privacy Rights Clearing House lists 135 marketing data brokers who are selling your private information, and tells you whether or not they have opt-out policies. If they do, you have to go to the brokers’ websites and suppress your name yourself. Most of the sites have hard-to-find opt out pages, but you can generally track them down by visiting the Privacy Policy which frequently appears as a link in small print at the bottom of the home page.

Even if you opt out, unfortunately, most of these sites still retain your information in their databases, meaning that you are still at risk of a breach. But until we have stronger consumer rights governing our private and personal information, opting out is the best you can do.

 

Identity Theft is #1 Consumer Complaint 11th Year in a Row

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft still tops the annual list of consumer complaints. The list was released last Tuesday and Identity Theft was #1 for the 11th year in a row with more than 250,000 complaints. Identity theft accounts for 19% of all consumer complaints received by the FTC last year.

Why is this such a lingering, time-tested problem? Because most people, most businesses, read about it being such a terrible problem, and then go off an do little about it. Corporations fail to train their employees on personal identity theft, and that lack of skill and prevention framework seeps into the workplace. This, in turn, leads to the loss of more data, customer records, employee files and intellectual capital.

The report also states that the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. area ranks #1 in the nation for identity theft complaints per capita. Number 2 on that list is Brownsville, Texas followed by Dunn, N.C.

The 10 top consumer complaints nationally in 2010 were:

  1. Identity theft
  2. Debt collection
  3. Internet services
  4. Prizes, sweepstakes and lotteries
  5. Shop-at-home and catalog sales
  6. Impostor scams
  7. Internet auctions
  8. Foreign money, counterfeit check scams
  9. Telephone and mobile services
  10. Credit cards

I’m betting that next year we will be celebrating the 12th consecutive year when identity theft is the leading thorn in the consumer’s side – but the fault is no one’s but those who fail to take action.

John Sileo speaks and consults professionally on identity theft. His clients include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and hundreds of corporations and associations of all sizes. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Entire Town in Colorado Has Identity Stolen

In a town with a population of about 3,000 people it seems that almost all the citizens of Bennett, Colorado have had their identity stolen. The scheme was simple and it was easy to fall victim. Identity thieves apparently used skimmers to extract credit and debit card numbers from individuals. Skimmer scams can happen when the criminal installs a “skimming” device over the card slot of an ATM, debit or credit card reader. The skimmer then reads the magnetic strip as the user unknowingly passes their card through it.

In the case of Bennett, Colorado it is believed that this was done at a local King Soopers gas pump. The skimmer is gone now and authorities are on the hunt for the thief.  King Soopers has denied that any of the fraudulent activity happened at their gas pumps and authorities have also said that they knew this was a crime spree for the past few weeks. In the meantime, many of the victims who used debit cards are without those funds because its the same as using cash. The average amount stolen was around $700 and more people are coming forward every day.

There are many ways you can make sure that you don’t become a skimmer victim.

  • Make sure that you always use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit card companies are better prepared to handle fraudulent charges and it does not directly affect your ash flow. If you use a debit card, you are losing that cash immediately and have to prove your innocence to get it back.
  • Always examine the credit card machine or ATM where you are sliding your card very carefully. Usually you can tell if it looks funny or has an extra attachment . If you are at all suspicious, don’t use it. Go inside of you bank to withdraw funds until you are comfortable that the ATM is safe, or pay inside of the gas station rather than at the pump.
  • Don’t use your debit card at restaurants, as this is another prime place for theft. Instead, use your credit card and set up credit card account alerts that text or email you immediately when you make a purchase. If’ it’s a fraudulent charge, you will catch it very quickly.
  • Use Cash. This is the simplest way to protect yourself form this type of fraud.

John Sileo speaks professionally on identity theft. His clients include the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and many municipalities that have successfully avoided the types of thefts in Bennett, Colorado by educating their citizens.

Tired of Being Tracked by Websites? Do Not Track is Here.

In response to the growing demands for more privacy on the internet, Mozilla implements a Do Not Track option in Firefox 4.

The most recent version of Mozilla Firefox, which was rolled out this February, offers users the option to opt-out of website tracking. Once enabled, the user’s preference to not be tracked is automatically sent to the website. That doesn’t mean that the website has to do anything about it, but there will probably be a bit of a stink about those sites that don’t respect user’s privacy preferences (it would be the equivalent of someone making a sales call to you after you join the Do Not Call list). Unfortunately, most users will never know which websites are participating in the opt-out Do Not Track function.

Learn more about Firefox’s Do Not Track Technology and about the Big Brother issues posed by companies tracking your every move on the internet.

In my opinion, beginning to solve the surfer privacy issues at the browser level is the right direction to take. It is the most universal gate through which all surfers pass – no one visits a website without touching a browser. If consumers get behind the technology now and let the companies they do business with know that they expect them to honor Firefox’s Do Not Track technology, there will be no option but to acquiesce.

Mozilla Firefox version 4.0 is still in beta while they make sure they get any glitches fixed. So don’t install it unless you are comfortable with using beta (often glitchy) software. It has been out for many weeks now, and most of the glitches are probably resolved at this point.

To add the Do Not Track functionality, download and install the latest version of Firefox 4, and then go to Firefox -> Options  -> Advanced. Check the “Do Not Track” box and save your settings.

When this option is selected, a header will be sent signaling to websites that you wish to opt-out of online behavioral tracking.  You will not notice any difference in your browsing experience until sites and advertisers start responding to the header. I recommend that users go in and try this out. This is the best way to give them feedback so they can make our browsing experience as safe as possible.

John Sileo’s motivational keynote speeches train organizations to play aggressive information offense before the attack, whether that is identity theft, data breach, cyber crime, social networking exposure or human fraud. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com or call him directly on 800.258.8076.

Avoid Tax Time Identity Theft

Identity theft speaker John Sileo shares his tax-time identity theft prevention tips.

This past week, a New Jersey man admitted to stealing tens of thousands of dollars in government checks from mailboxes. He stole Social Security, tax refund and unemployment checks from November 2009 to April 2010, then recruited people to cash them using fake IDs. Prosecutors say the scheme cost the government more than $70,000. Not only did this criminal have the actual financial refunds from most individuals, but he also had identity information and even social security numbers.

Around this time of year, tax time, people are more vulnerable to Identity Theft. There is very little that is more damaging and dangerous to your identity than losing your tax records. After all, tax records generally contain the most sensitive personally identifying information that you own, including Social Security Numbers (for you, your spouse and maybe even your kids), names, addresses, employers, net worth, etc. Because of this high concentration of sensitive data, tax time is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for identity thieves. Here are some of the dishes on which they greedily feed:

  • Tax documents exposed on your desk (home and work)
  • Private information that sits unprotected in your tax-preparer’s office
  • Improperly mailed, emailed and digitally transmitted or filed records
  • Photocopiers with hard drives that store a digital copy of your tax forms
  • Copies of sensitive documents that get thrown out without being shredded
  • Improperly stored and locked documents once your return is filed
  • Tax-time scams that take advantage of our propensity to do whatever the IRS says (even if it’s not really the IRS asking)

Top Tips for Tax Time Identity Theft Protection Safe Preparation. Your greatest risk of identity theft during tax season comes from your tax preparer (if you use one) either because they are dishonest (less likely) or because they are careless with your sensitive documents (more likely). Just walk into a tax-preparers office on April 1 and ask yourself how easy it would be to walk off with a few client folders containing mounds of profitable identity. The devil is in the disorganization. Effective Solutions:

  • Choose your preparer wisely. How well do you know the person and company preparing your taxes? Did they come personally recommended, or could they be earning cash on the side by selling your personal information. Do they have an established record and are they recommended by the Better Business Bureau?
  • Interview your preparer before you turn over sensitive information. Ask them exactly how they protect your privacy (do they have a privacy policy?). Are they meeting with you in a room full of client files, or do they take you to a neutral, data-free, conference room or office? Do they leave files out on their desk for the cleaning service to access at night, or do they lock your documents in a filing cabinet or behind a secure office door? Do they protect their computers with everything listed in the next section?
  • Asking professional tax preparers these questions sends them a message that you are watching! Identity thieves tend to stay away from people they know are actively monitoring for fraud. Remember, losing your identity inside of their accounting or bookkeeping business poses a tremendous legal liability to their livelihood.

Secure Computers. Last year, more than 80 million Americans filed their tax returns electronically. To prevent electronic identity theft, you must take the necessary steps to protect your computer, network and wireless connection. Additionally, your tax preparer should be working only on a secured computer, network and internet connection. Hire a professional to implement the following security measures:

  • Strong alpha-numeric passwords that keep strangers out of your system
  • Anti-virus and anti-spyware software configured with automatic updates
  • Encrypted hard drives or folders (especially for your tax preparer)
  • Automatic operating system updates and security patches
  • An encrypted wireless network protection
  • A firewall between your computer and the internet
  • Remove all file-sharing programs from your computer (limewire, napster, etc.)

Private information should be transmitted by phone using your cell or land line (don’t use cordless phones). In addition, never email your private information to anyone unless you are totally confident that you are using encrypted email. This is a rarity, so don’t assume you have it. In a pinch, you can email password protected PDF documents, though these are relatively easy to hack. Stop Falling for IRS Scams. We have a heightened response mechanism during tax season; we don’t want to raise any red flags with the IRS, so we tend to give our personal information without much thought. We are primed to be socially engineered. Here’s how to combat the problem:

  • Make your default answer, “No”. When someone asks for your Social Security Number or other identifying information, refuse until you are completely comfortable that they are legitimate. Verify their credentials by calling them back on a published number for the IRS.
  • If someone promises you (by phone, fax, mail, or in person) to drastically reduce your tax bill or speed up your tax return, don’t believe them until you have done your homework (call the IRS directly if you have to). These schemes flourish when the government issues economic stimulus checks and IRS refunds.
  • If anyone asks you for information in order to send you your check, they are scamming for your identity. The IRS already knows where you live (and where to send your rebate)! By the way, the IRS will NEVER email you for any reason (e.g., promising a refund, requesting information, threatening you).
  • To learn more about IRS scams, visit the only legitimate IRS website, which is www.irs.gov. If you are hit by an IRS scam, contact the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service at www.irs.gov/advocate.

Mail Safely. A good deal of identity theft takes place while tax documents or supporting material are being sent through the mail. If you are sending your tax return through the mail, follow these steps:

  • Walk the envelope inside of the post office and hand it to an employee. Too much mail is stolen out of the blue USPS mailboxes and driveway mailboxes that we use for everything else to make them safe.
  • Send your return by certified mail so that you know it has arrived safely. This sends a message to each mail carrier that they had better provide extra protection to the document they are carrying.
  • Consider filing electronically so that you take mail out of the equation. Make sure that you have a well-protected computer (discussed above).

Shred and Store Safely. Any copies of tax documents that you no longer need can be shredded using a confetti shredder. Store all tax records, documents and related materials in a secure fire safe. I recommend spending the extra money to have your safe bolted into your home so that a thief can’t walk away with your entire identity portfolio. Make sure that your tax provider appropriately destroys and locks up any lingering pieces of your identity as well. Tax returns provide more of your private information in a single place than almost any other document in our lives. Don’t waste your tax refund recovering from this crime.

ohn Sileo’s motivational keynote speeches train organizations to play aggressive information offense before the attack, whether that is identity theft, data breach, cyber crime, social networking exposure or human fraud. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com or call him directly on 800.258.8076.

2010 Identity Theft Statistics Released

The 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report by Javelin was just released, and it shows new trends in identity theft. While the report states that identity theft cases have decreased overall, it is costing consumers more time and money. The good news is that the drive to increase awareness about identity theft is working.

Meanwhile, consumer costs, the average out-of-pocket dollar amount victims pay, increased, reversing a downward trend in recent years. This increase can be attributed to new account fraud, which showed longer periods of misuse and detection and therefore more dollar losses associated with it than any other type of fraud. – Javelin Strategy & Research

The cost to resolve identity fraud issues rose dramatically in 2010 because there was a change in the type of fraud that was being committed. New Account fraud is on the rise and this is the hardest type to detect and costs the victim the most. The majority of thieves who use friendly fraud, where they target friends and relatives they know, are able to do a lot of damage by setting up new accounts in the victim’s name. Since the victim has no idea that they are a victim, they can continue to use their identity longer, which racks up more financial theft.  

Rising problems include account takeover, friendly fraud, and people failing to use privacy settings on social networks. Too few consumers are failing to protect their data, ranging from lack of anti-malware software on personal devices, mailing paper checks or financial statements, and weak online passwords. Individuals need to do a better job monitoring their personal information (limit what you give when opening new accounts) and monitoring current accounts with text and email alerts for money spent and other transactions.

Javelin found that 48% of all reported identity fraud cases were first detected by consumers, which reinforces that we need to monitor our accounts regularly.  Another important way to protect yourself it to order, review, and know what is on your credit report. You can do this at least 3 times a year for free.  Consumers can request a copy of their credit report from one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com.

John Sileo’s motivational keynote speeches train organizations to play aggressive information offense before the attack, whether that is identity theft, data breach, cyber crime, social networking exposure or human fraud. Learn more at www.ThinkLikeASpy.com or call him directly on 800.258.8076.

Avoid Super Bowl Scam

With any big sporting event comes the opportunity for thieves to take advantage of desperate fans. This rings true with the upcoming Super Bowl match between the Packers and the Steelers (appropriately named, but incorrectly spelled for this post on theft). Whether you watch the game for the fun commercials or to root for your new favorite team (sorry, Broncos), we can all agree that Super Bowl Sunday is almost a national holiday. With any holiday comes predators looking to take advantage of distracted and unsuspecting fans.

Here are a few Super Bowl themed scams that you should be aware of:

Fake Tickets. According to the NFL, in recent years, between 100 and 250 football fans have shown up to Super Bowl games with bogus tickets. Before booking a hotel room and hopping on a plane to Dallas make sure that you have legitimate tickets to the big game.

Michelle Reinen, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection says, “Actual Super Bowl tickets are printed on thick, heavy paper with bar-codes, holograms and raised ink. In addition, the NFL says the tickets include heat sensitive logos that disappear with the touch of a thumb.”

Phony Sweepstakes. Avoid clicking on Super Bowl sweepstakes offers, which may feature trips to the big game or other related prizes. These e-mails could be part of a larger scam to get you to fork over funds for a chance at tickets, or scammers could be enticing you to click on a link that will download malware or other viruses onto your computer.

Treat these emails as you would any suspicious email and delete it from your inbox. Never click on unknown links.

Travel Scams. Looking to score big on a Super Bowl travel package? Be careful, because scam artists love to dream up new tricks for major sporting events. People traveling to Dallas for the game should book their travel accommodations carefully. When big games are in the works, people will often find offers that charge hidden fees for items, like tickets, that they thought were included. They may also not be booking you into the exact hotel you think you are getting. Instead of staying at the Lowes Arlington, you find yourself at their sister property in Amarillo. Book hotels directly through the hotel, or if you go through Hotels.com, Travelocity, Hotwire or Expedia, call the hotel after the reservation is made to verify what you are getting.

My biggest tip to avoid becoming the victim of a scam is to Be Skeptical. If an offer seems to good to be true, it probably is. Question everything and get verification to make sure that your Super Bowl Plans go as smooth as possible.

John Sileo is the award-winning author of the fraud prevention book Privacy Means Profit and speaks on information offense, identity theft prevention and data breach avoidance. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To learn more, contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

The Top 12 Ways Victims Detect Identity Theft

There are many signs that your identity has been stolen, even if you haven’t started to feel the real pain yet. If you detect these signs early, it probably isn’t too late to keep the damage to a minimum if you act quickly. Unless you are already at number 12…

  1. Your bills or statements are not arriving in your mail on time.
  2. You notice unauthorized charges on your credit card bill.
  3. You notice new accounts or erroneous information on your credit report.
  4. You are denied credit for a large purchase.
  5. You receive credit card bills from cards you don’t own.
  6. You are contacted by a collection agency on an item you didn’t purchase.
  7. You receive bills for unknown purchases.
  8. You are unable to set up new banking,loan or brokerage accounts.
  9. You notice withdrawals on your checking or savings account that you didn’t make.
  10. The checks listed on your bank statements don’t reconcile with those listed in your check register. Many times these checks are made out to “Cash.”
  11. You notice a downward trend in benefits on your annual Social Security Statement.
  12. The police show up at your door.