Will a National ID Card Prevent Identity Theft?

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

In a word, no. A national ID card, on its own, will not prevent all forms of identity theft. In order for new account fraud to be entirely avoidable, a number of other factors would have to come into play, effectively establishing accountability through identity proofing. Effective identity proofing is also necessary in order to reliably prevent medical and criminal identity theft.

As you might have guessed, identity proofing simply means proving that individuals are who they say they are. Identity proofing often begins with personal questions, like the name of a first grade teacher or the make and model of a first vehicle, that only the actual person would be able to answer. Of course, this technique is not foolproof, and now that personal information is so readily available over the Internet, knowledge-based authentication is probably on its way to extinction. The next step is documentation, such as a copy of a utility bill or a mortgage statement. These types of identifying documents can be scavenged from the trash, but they are more effective proof when combines with personal questions. Biometric features, such as fingerprints or iris scans, can help further authenticate an individual’s identity.

Identity scoring is another effective identity proofing method. An identity score is a system for tagging and verifying the legitimacy of an individual’s public identity. Identity scores are being used to prevent fraud in business and to verify and correct public records. Identity scores incorporate a broad set of consumer data, including components such as personal identifiers, public and government records, Internet data, corporate data, predicted behavior patterns based on empiric data, self-assessed behavior patterns, and credit records.

USA Today reports that in the four years since Congress enacted the Real ID Act, which was intended to make it more difficult to obtain a fraudulent driver’s license, the act has languished due to opposition from several states. Real ID supporters say it will not only deter terrorism but also reduce identity theft, curb illegal immigration and reduce underage drinking, all by making the nation’s identification-of-choice more secure. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is proposing the repeal of the Real ID Act.

The Real ID Act has many provisions that are forms of identity proofing along with the potential for biometrics across the board. When Indiana checked its six million drivers against a Social Security database, it ended up invalidating 19,000 licenses that didn’t match. When Indiana began using “facial recognition” technology to make its photos secure, the state caught a man who had 149 licenses with the same photo but different names.

Is Napolitano moving backwards or forwards? Do your research and decide for yourself.

Protect yourself from identity theft;

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Identity Theft Speaker Robert Siciliano discussing identity theft on Fox News

Scammers Targeting Craigslist Users

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Craigslist scams are in full force. Fox news reports scams targeting online car buyers. The crooks spend about a hundred dollars on a junk car and get a title. Then they steal a similar car and advertise it for sale on Craigslist. This is a form of auto identity theft too. They then take the VIN plate or vehicle identification number plate out of the junk car and put it inside the stolen car.

Meanwhile Fox News also reports adoptive parents are being scammed on Craigslist . A mother from Massachusetts was horrified when she saw an ad on Craigslist of her 7-month-old son up for adoption! Reports said that someone alerted the mother to her son’s photo on Craigslist.

The baby involved in this online adoption scam is named Jake. The ad, which involved his photo, said: “A CUTE BABY BOY READY FOR ADOPTION. HE IS VERY HEALTHY”. When the mother responded to the ad, she got a response saying her son was in an orphanage.

The mother said the photo was taken from her family’s blog.  Ive said in the past when posting to social media sites don’t give away specifics. Don’t post your address, date of birth, kids’ names, pets’ names, phone numbers, or any account numbers or financial information of any kind. You really shouldn’t even post childrens’ photos online.

The mother said her son wasn’t being harmed, but felt he was violated. She alerted the FBI and the scammer had also been removed on Yahoo.

I spoke with Jeffrey A. Kasky, Esq., renowned adoption expert from OneWorldAdoption.com. He said “Families who hope to adopt a child are frequently medically unable to have children for themselves.  As such, they look at adoption opportunities from an emotional rather than a logical perspective, and are therefore more vulnerable to scams. What would tug at your heartstrings more than thinking that this beautiful little boy was stuck in an orphanage halfway around the world?  “All you have to do is wire us $300 now, then more and more and more, and he can be yours…….”

Scammers are lower than that black smelly stuff in a sewer.

No matter what you are selling or buying you must know who you are dealing with on Craigslist. When we were young, our parents told us not to talk to strangers. Strangers are not yet part of our trusted circle. So don’t trust them! There’s no benefit to paranoia, but being a little guarded can prevent you from stumbling into a vulnerable situation.  Since predators use online classifieds to lure unsuspecting victims, you should find out as much as possible about strangers who contact you, or when you contact them. Use Google or iSearch.com to investigate names and email addresses and phone numbers.

Whenever possible, deal locally. People who cannot meet you in your town are more likely to be scammers. And even when you do meet in person, you should be wary.

Never engage in online transactions involving credit cards, cashier’s checks, money orders, personal checks, Western Union, MoneyGram or cash, that require you to send money to a stranger in response to money they have sent you. This is an advance fee scam.

I- ID pre meeting. Get their name and cell phone number so you can use free iSearch.com and look for their name in social networks. If you see anything suspicious then cancel or check further Intelius.com

N- Never meet in private. Meet at a public location that involves lots of other people. The more eyeballs the better.

T- Trust your gut, and don’t discount any troubling feelings you might have about your meeting. If anything seems wrong, then it IS wrong. Cancel if necessary.

E- Enlist a friend Whenever possible, bring along a someone. There is strength in numbers. Predators thrive on isolation. By paring up, you reduce the chances of being attacked.

L- Look street smart. Don’t wear expensive jewelry nor provocative clothes. Scarves and loose fitting clothing give attackers something to grab. Wear shoes you can run and kick in

I- Intelius can help Using a product like Intelius.com allows you to do a criminal check before meeting.

Unaware creates risk. Unfortunately there is risk in meeting someone you don’t know.  Being guarded can keep you from getting into a vulnerable situation.

S- Stay in communication Make it known to your spouse or a friend where you are going and when you will be back. Have them on your cell phone while you are meeting.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing all kinds of scams on TBS Movie and a Makeover

Big Time Identity Theft Hackers Indicted

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

ABC news and a bazillion other outlets report that a former informant for the Secret Service was one of three men charged with stealing credit and debit card information from 170 million accounts in the largest data breach in history. The former informant, Albert Gonzalez of Florida, A.K.A “Segvec”, “SoupNazi,” and “j4guar17,” whose motto was ”Get Rich or Die Tryin'” was alleged to have been the ringleader of the criminal hacking operation of a prolific network that spans over five years of serious criminal activity. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

Gonzalez and two other unidentified hackers believed to be from Russia have been charged with hacking into Heartland Payment Systems, 7-11 and Hannaford Brothers Company, Dave and Busters and TJX Corporation, which involved up to 45 million credit card numbers..

Gonzalez was originally arrested in 2003 by the U.S. Secret Service and began working with the agency as an informant. Federal investigators say they later learned that the hacker had been tipping off other hackers on how to evade detection of security and law enforcement worldwide.

Gonzalez provided “sniffer” software used to intercept the credit and debit card numbers for the Russian hackers. Sniffer software or “malware” malicious software, acts like a virus attaching itself to a network and often spreading. The software allows the criminal hacker backdoor access to all the data in the server and provides remote control functionality.

The NY Times reports according to the indictment, Gonzalez and his conspirators reviewed lists of Fortune 500 companies to decide which corporations to take aim at and visited their stores and used a technique called “wardriving” to monitor wireless networks. The online attacks took advantage of flaws in the SQL programming language, which is commonly used for databases.

Threat Level, by Wired magazine, reported that Gonzalez had lived a lavish lifestyle in Miami, once spending $75,000 on a birthday party for himself and complaining to friends that he had to manually count thousands of $20 bills when his counting machine broke.

Protect yourself;

1. You can’t prevent this type of credit card fraud from happening to you when the retailer isn’t protecting your data. Eventually credit card protection solutions will  be available. For now, protecting yourself from account takeover is relatively easy. Simply pay attention to your statements every month and refute unauthorized charges immediately. I check my charges online once every two weeks. If I’m traveling extensively, especially out of the country, I let the credit card company know ahead of time, so they won’t shut down my card while I’m on the road.

2. Prevent new account fraud.  Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

3. Invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection and Prevention. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing credit card data breaches and the sad state of cyber security on Fox News

10 Tips to Safety and Security in Online Matchmaking

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

My first passion has always been personal security as it relates to violence prevention. I got into this business 20 years ago as a result of violence in my own life and began to write, speak and train in self defense. Today is no different than back then, with the exception that there are many more ways for the bad guy to snare their victims.

Studies show online dating and matchmaking services in general are growing even in a recession. Many single men and women are logging in and attending speed dating sessions more than ever before. There are a couple of reasons for the increase in online dating. One, it is cheaper to join a service than it is to spend all kinds of money on a dinner and a bad blind date. Second, people want the comfort of being with someone in turbulent times. Having a companion to share in the fear, uncertainty and doubt can help people vent and find relief in each other.

However, in our never ending quest to Find Mr/Mrs Right, the one under-discussed, over looked and “it can’t happen to me” aspect of being on the dating scene is your personal security. Ive partnered with Intelius.com, a company that provides “DateCheck”, a background check to vet out and look for possible redflags in your potential mate.

1. Look for red flags. If you are contacted online and they make no reference to you or your name, it may be a “broadcast” scam going to others. If they immediately start talking about marriage and love and showing immediate affection run really fast. Anyone asking for money for any reason is a con-man. When communicating with someone online and it seems it takes days for them to respond, this may be a sign they are married.

2. When communicating with a potential mate via online dating or even in the physical world, please do not give up all your information to them until you are entirely sure they are “good”. That can take weeks, but it’s worth the wait. Bad guys lie, a lot. And they will keep up the ruse until they have what they need or until you are in a vulnerable place. So be discreet and keep your personal information private.

3. Read books on self defense and personal security. Watch instructional videos on self defense techniques. Take a self defense course. The single most effective self defense offering on the planet is a program called “Impact Model Mugging”. Search it online and find one near you. Drive 500 miles if you have to, but take this course and bring your sons and daughters with you. In this case knowledge certainly is power.

4. You’ve heard this before and it requires revisiting: meet your date in a populated place and drive yourself. And do it at least the first 5 times. The goal here is you want to get to know the energy of this person and what makes them tick. If simple stuff irritates them or they make racist or offensive jokes or exhibit behaviors not conducive to “healthy”, move on.

5. Do not consume alcohol when meeting, even with food. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and makes us accept behaviors that aren’t appropriate. Don’t accept drinks from anyone under any condition unless you see the drink being poured and it goes straight to your hands. Slipping drugs in drinks happens every day.

6. Be direct about going ‘dutch’ in regards to paying for dinner. While this may seem extreme to some, studies show an large percentage of males still believe that when they buy a woman dinner that she “owes” him sex.

7. Take lots of pictures of them with your mobile phone and tell them you are emailing everyone in your life to show them who you are with and where you are.

8. Get as much information about them. You ask all the questions. Get their name, address, previous address, home phone, cell phone, place of birth, birthdate, where they work, license plate and if you can squeeze it out of them, and I kid you not, get their Social Security number.

9. Go online to iSearch.com and Google and search every bit of information about them you have acquired. You want to know as much about this person as possible. Search name, phone, email and screen name. As you “mine” this data, the deeper you dig the more you will find. The goal is to look for truth and lies. If you see inconsistencies, or red flags that can’t be easily explained, run really fast.

10. Go online to Intelius.com and perform a “Date Check”. With a name and birth date you can do a comprehensive background check that will tell you if they have been convicted of a crime, gone bankrupt, are being sued and if they are married.

A background check is an entirely necessary tool that alerts you to any red flags or inconsistencies in their dialog with you. Performing a background check is inexpensive, quick and smart.

Robert Siciliano discussing self defense on Fox

Identity Theft Is Easy Over P2P

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Peer to peer file sharing is a great technology used to share data over peer networks. It’s also great software to get hacked and have your identity stolen.

Installing P2P software allows anyone, including criminal hackers, to access your data. This can result in data breaches, credit card fraud and identity theft. This is the easiest and, frankly, the most fun kind of hacking. I’ve seen numerous reports of government agencies, drug companies, mortgage brokers and others discovering P2P software on their networks after personal data was leaked.

The Register reports that a Washington state man has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after admitting to using file-sharing program LimeWire to steal tax returns and other sensitive documents. He searched LimeWire users’ hard drives for files containing words such as “statement,” “account,” and “tax.pdf.” He would then download tax returns, bank statements, and other sensitive documents and use them to steal identities.

I did a story with a Fox News reporter and a local family who had four kids, including a 15-year-old with an iPod full of music, but no money. I asked her dad where she got all her music and he replied, “I have no idea.” He had no idea that his daughter had installed P2P software on the family computer and was sharing all their data with the world. The reporter asked me how much personal information I could find on the P2P network in five minutes. I responded, “Let’s do it in one minute.”

There are millions of PCs loaded with P2P software, and parents are usually clueless about the exposure of their data. P2P offers a path of least resistance into a person’s computer, so be smart and make sure you aren’t opening a door to identity thieves.

  • Don’t install P2P software on your computer.
  • If you aren’t sure whether a family member or employee has installed P2P software, check to see whether anything unfamiliar has been installed. A look at your “All Programs Menu” will show nearly every program on your computer. If you find an unfamiliar program, do an online search to see what it is you’ve found.
  • Set administrative privileges to prevent the installation of new software without your knowledge.
  • If you must use P2P software, be sure that you don’t share your hard drive’s data. When you install and configure the software, don’t let the P2P program select data for you.
  • Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.
  • And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses P2P hacks on Fox.

One in eight applicants denied positions because of criminal history

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

Background checks are a necessary tool in today’s sometimes violent and certainly litigious society. If a rug installation company was to hire an installer, who eventually rapes and kills a client, then the rug installation company would be held libel for the animals actions. This example is one that happens all to often.

A background check may solve this problem in many situations. Withjust  a name and address a company can vet a new hire to see of that person has a criminal background and has ever committed a violent crime.

Church Executive Magazine reports one in eight background checks conducted on volunteers or prospective employees through LifeWay Christian Resources found a criminal history that might have kept an individual from working or volunteering at a church!

This is where people who are supposed to be held at a higher standard, but unfortunately predators have no boundaries.

“While most screenings returned clean records or only minor traffic offenses, in the report 450 churches requested more than 5,000 background checks on volunteers and prospective employees. LifeWay found 80 serious felony offenses and more than 600 people had some type of criminal history that may have disqualified them from volunteering or working at a church.”

“While vital, experts say sex-offender registries alone aren’t very effective in spotting sexual predators. They list only those convicted of a crime. Because victims typically are reluctant to come forward and with statutes of limitations on molestation laws in many states, only an estimated 10 percent of sexual predators are brought to justice.”

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing background checks

Are Cookies An Invason Of Privacy Or Identity Theft Concern?

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Ive taken lots of heat for my comments on a Fox News report that the Office of Management and Budget is considering reversing a nine year ban on using “cookies” to track users’ preferences and interests on federal websites. The shift in policy is being billed as a way for government to enter the 21st century and for federal agencies to use the same technology utilized on news sites, retail sites and social media networks.

My comments under fire involve some “scaremongering” and potential inaccuracies in relation to cookies and what they do.

“Without explaining this reversal of policy, the OMB is seeking to allow the mass collection of personal information of every user of a federal government website,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative office. “Until OMB answers the multitude of questions surrounding this policy shift, we will continue to raise our strenuous objections.”

A cookie is a small piece of text or code that is stored on your computer in order to track data. Cookies contains bits of information such as user preferences, shopping cart contents and sometimes user names and passwords. Cookies allow your web browser to communicate with a website. Cookies are not the same as spyware or viruses, although they are related. Many anti-spyware products will detect cookies from certain sites, but while cookies have the potential to be malicious, most are not.

A colleague sent me a note after reviewing my comments regarding cookies and stated:  “Cookies have been around since the mid-to-late ’90’s, and most people still don’t understand what they are or what they do. If you go to http://osvdb.org and do a search for “cookies”, you’ll see there have traditionally been tons of vulnerabilities surrounding them. From a privacy standpoint, they’re also a potential issue depending on how they’re used, but that really depends on a site’s environment. Saying that “cookies store passwords” isn’t really true in most cases based on evidence I’ve seen over the last several years. They might store session IDs or be manipulated to allow admin access to a site, sure… but that’s not true across the board for every (or even most) sites.”

However Informationweek reports Internet users are revealing information that identifies them through the use of social networking sites cookies.

What was said in the video in relation to what cookies do was more of an analogy than stating fact. I was trying to simply give a bit of perspective and explain what the privacy concerns may be. Its a complicated issue that has the ACLU and others up in arms.

The government tracks criminals using specially developed spyware that gathers a wide range of information, including IP and MAC addresses, operating systems, Internet browsers, open ports, running programs, user names, and recently visited URLs. This scares privacy advocates, for good reason.

But cookies are generally not invasive. They are typically used to produce usage statistics within a single site, or to produce anonymous user profiles across multiple sites, in order to determine which advertisements would be most relevant. Many websites become unusable if your browser does not accept cookies. Social networking sites are particularly dependent on cookies.

Federal government agencies have banned cookies in their own sites since 2000 in response to demands from privacy advocates. Some claim that the proposal to reverse the ban comes in response to Google’s recent lobbying efforts. Whitehouse.gov posts YouTube videos that contain Google’s third party cookies. The entire issue requires a bit more transparency for all those involved.

Advertisers have long known that cookies are useful for customizing the user experience. The government seems interested in taking advantage of this benefit as well. If that is the real motivation, it’s great. But privacy advocates aren’t happy, since the government tends to take a mile when given an inch.

There are a few fundamental ways to keep yourself secure. Browsers all give you the option of simply turning cookies off.  Make sure that yourInternet security software is updated, and install spyware removal software if it isn’t included in your basic security suite. Lock down your wireless connection. Use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers, and never share them. Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. In most cases, this prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. Download CCleaner, a free system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool that removes unused files including cookies from your system, which frees up disk space and allows Windows to run faster. It also cleans traces of your online activities. And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses a proposal to allow the use of cookies on federal websites on Fox News, and again on Breitbart.tv.

Scams Happen to Smart People Who Do Stupid Things

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Most people are too smart to fall for a Nigerian 419 scam. But plenty of smart people fell for Bernie Madoff’s investment scams. Madoff was far more subtle than your average scammer. But in this day and age, people ought to be more alert to potential scams than ever before. And yet this wolf in sheep’s clothing was able to bilk so many investors. So it looks like we aren’t as savvy as we should be.

The root of the problem is the sheer number of scams. There are investment seminars, smoke and mirror charities, phishing emails and even text messages. I got a “phext” (phishing text message) from “r.yahoo.com” that said, “changed secret question, log in to update, or text HELP or to end STOP.” Naturally, this raised my suspicions, so I did an online search which led me to a forum discussion of this particular scam. Apparently, any response to this text message would have allowed hackers to access plenty of proprietary data.

A prominent security and privacy researcher emailed me to describe an attempted Craigslist scam:

“Robert, so, I registered on Craigslist and posted our above ground pool for sale. Within minutes got a reply from someone asking some basic questions (most of which could have been answered if they had read the advert). Their reply to my answers raised an immediate red flag. This individual claimed to be from Miami and was willing to write me a check for the full amount, plus shipping charges for their shipping company that would pick up the pool. In other words, I deposit a check (in context it seemed to be either a business or personal check, either way I would have had to wait for it to clear) and when it clears, I keep my asking price and give the difference to the shipping company when they arrive to pick up the pool.

I’ve ceased communication with this individual, but this just stinks to high heaven. First, if it is their own shipping company, why should I have to pay them? Second, no way I’m going to deposit this check into my account and risk having my bank info show up on their statement. Third, why would someone in Miami (above ground pools aren’t all that popular down there, it seems to me) want to pay to have a used above ground pool shipped all the way from New England? Fourth, I’m just nervous about stuff like that anyway.

Ever heard of/encountered that kind of situation before?”

This is an advanced fee scam! Now, since I am obsessively screaming about this stuff all day, I can see this coming from a mile away, as did my friend. But those who are less tuned in to the variety of potential scams might easily fall victim to this type of crime.

Financial troubles are forcing people to seek out new opportunities. When we are searching for jobs or attempting to sell our belongings online, or simply spending more time using social networking sites, we become more susceptible to the latest scams. But the biggest danger is our own egos and our complacency, as we foolishly believe that we are all too smart to become victims.

According to The Wall Street Journal, many scam victims are pretty smart. Three recent studies showed that victims of investment fraud tend to be better educated and have higher incomes than nonvictims, and that most have been investing for a decade or more. Because they are so confident in their own judgment, they fail to seek out professional advice.

Years ago, the Better Business Bureau conducted a test in which they planted a man dressed in normal street clothes outside a store during the holiday season. They gave the man a plastic pumpkin and a bell to ring. He spent twenty minutes ringing the bell, and during that time, people kept dropping money into the pumpkin. When the people were questioned, most believed that they had just donated to the Salvation Army, simply because the man was ringing a bell. Like Pavlov’s dogs, they opened their wallets.

Criminals aren’t any smarter than we are, but they know how to capitalize on our stupidity. You need to take steps to protect your own identity, because while you are smart enough to inform yourself about these issues, you can’t prevent some company from stupidly compromising your sensitive personal data. Prevent new account fraud by getting a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief. And invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses various scams on TBS’s Movie and a Makeover.

Courts Force Tech Giant to Handover Bloggers ID

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

As a “blogger” I am held accountable for what I say. Bloggers are being sued and held libel for their comments. People who comment on blogs are now coming under fire.

For years I’ve put myself out there making a concerted effort to educate, inform and try help out mankind by informing people of their options to protect themselves from the bad guy. Despite my heart being in the right place, someone always finds it appropriate to criticize and disparage. I don’t hide under an anonymous chat name or obscure my identity with some faux persona. But my critics often do.

In this process I’ve always followed the creed, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I bring this right to the forefront because I spend 70 hours a week doing what I love and I get paid to do it; some people don’t like that. I’ve had numerous vocations and finally with persistence and a slight amount of talent, I’ve managed to keep the lights on doing what I love. AND, anyone who questions my association with any product or service when I write about or promote them needs only to look at my website and see their logo splashed everywhere. I align myself with brands I believe in because they matter, and I hide nothing.

In the public eye, which I am, at a very small small level, I’m subject to criticism. I know this and put it out there every day despite that fact. Occasionally, someone will take issue with what I say or how I say it and question my credentials and attack me personally. As in the case of the model who was persecuted in an open forum and horrible things were said and accusations were made. She was quoted saying “Why should anybody let it go? If somebody attacks somebody on the street, you’re not going to let it go … why should I just ignore it?” Cohen told Good Morning America. “I couldn’t find one reason to ignore it.”

I come from the same school of thought. I come from the streets of Boston, or a proper suburb of Boston. I have my fair share of scars from various times of my life. I’m pretty sure I was suspended for fighting more than anyone in the history of my high-school. But as one grows older and hopefully wiser, they respond accordingly.

Today there is a certain amount of anonymity on the web and allows people to say what they want and not feel the repercussions of what may occur if they said something to ones face in the street. Most of the comments made deserve a swift appropriate response that would equate to a WWF Smackdown, deservedly.

Fortunately, there isn’t as much anonymity as people might think. For one, if you spew hatred and filth in comments or in a blog post, there is a good chance a court will hand over your identity to those who you’ve offended and you get to experience the lovely long, expensive process of being sued.  People don’t like lawyers for this reason. Frankly, I love lawyers and thank God for them. Mine protects me from all the trolls who like to take from those who have.

There are some great ways to expose the trolls who write the comments and spew the hate. Your IP address isn’t too far away, and generally gives your address away. Google of course does a great job of indexing the world’s data and mining for information via Google hacks that can reveal a lot about whom a person is and where they are. iSearch.com from Intelius.com is another great set of tools that allows a person to investigate chat handles, user names, email addresses and reverse search phone numbers. These are the exact same ways one vets out a potential date when meeting online or when considering hiring a nanny to watch your kids. These are the same steps a potential employer takes before hiring someone.

Once you find out enough data about them, all one needs to perform a full background check is a name and an address and then you have enough data to take the troll to court for any disparaging things they may say. You may not win in court, but the costs associated with going to court are enough to discourage anyone from opening their spew hole again.

These are some of the same processes a lawyer may go through when filing suit. They do a full investigation using these various tools including pulling data from your social networks too. So now what you post is not nearly as anonymous as you might think. Whatever companies you work for, who your boss is, your professor’s names, where you go to school, any academic degrees that you believe hold you higher than the rest and make you believe you can say anything, your families names and addresses, are all available to the public. And when you say and do things that hurt, well, you many end up at the wrong end of a law suit too.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing hate and vile comments on CNN

A Glorious Week of Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

If there was ever a week to get high, totally drunk, on information security and identity theft scammers and hackers, then this is it! Media outlets everywhere have been pumping out story after story of data breaches, identity theft, criminal hackers and indictments! Yeah team! For a criminal hacker groupie, this is Woodstock!

Dark reading reports Eight defendants were arraigned in a Brooklyn court for allegedly using the stolen identities of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Asurion customers to steal some $22 million worth of wireless equipment and services. An indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court yesterday morning charging Courtney Beckford and seven other defendants. When identity theft defendants named Courtney, Gabe, Marsha, Saul and Ron are involved in a $22 million identity theft scheme, then you know it’s just a matter of time until someone named Britney or Brad will get busted too! It’s the identity theft apocalypse!

ABC News reports that a former informant for the Secret Service was one of three men charged with stealing credit and debit card information from 170 million accounts in the largest data breach in history. The former informant, Albert Gonzalez of Florida, A.K.A “Segvec”, “SoupNazi,” and “j4guar17,” whose motto was ”Get Rich or Die Tryin’” was alleged to have been the ringleader of the criminal hacking operation of a prolific network that spans over five years of serious criminal activity.

Information week reports in the first half of 2009, the number of computer users affected by malware engineered to steal personal information has risen by 600% compared to the January through June period in 2008, according to PandaLabs. In quantitative terms, Panda reports identifying 391,406 computers infected with identity-theft malware in the first six months of the year. Identity thieves are also seeking sensitive information through a more diverse set of targets. Where previously financial data thieves focused on spoofing online bank sites to dupe users into entering login information, they have recently been targeting a variety of services where payment account information may be stored or entered, like PayPal, Amazon, eBay, or charity sites.

Cnet reports Rogue Facebook apps steal log-in data, send spam. Security firm Trend Micro warned on Wednesday that a handful of rogue Facebook apps are stealing log-in credentials and spamming victims’ friends. So far, six malicious applications have been identified: “Stream,” “Posts,” “Your Photos,” “Birthday Invitations,” “Inbox (1),” “Inbox (2)” according to a blog post by Trend Micro researcher Rik Ferguson. The activity started earlier in the week with a Facebook notification Ferguson says he got from an app called “sex sex sex and more sex!!!,” which has more than 287,000 fans. The notification said that someone had commented on one of his posts. That app doesn’t appear to be malicious and may have been compromised somehow to begin the distribution of the spam, he said.

USA Today reports Hackers harness Twitter to do their dirty work.  A cyber gang has begun experimenting with setting up free Twitter accounts, then sending out Tweets from the popular micro-blogging service that are really coded instructions to botted PCs to carry out criminal activities. Anti-virus maker Symantec has isolated several samples of infected PCs carrying a unique new infection, dubbed “Sninfs.”

The PCs most likely got infected when their users unwittingly clicked to a tainted web page or on a corrupted link carried in an email or social network message, says Marc Fossi research and development manager at Symantec Security Response.

Protect yourself;

Don’t just sit back and get hacked. Arm yourself with anti-virus that runs automatically in the background and prevents “Courtney, Marsha and SoupNazi” from stealing your identity. Pick up McAfee’s Total Protection software and take control of your PC security.

Get a credit freeze. Go to ConsumersUnion.org and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft protection can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing the sad state of cyber security on Fox News and check washing and campus security on ABC News.