Black Money Washing Scam Plagues Naïve

Get ready to cringe. The Nigerians really have cornered the market on scamming the unsuspecting. In business, if they were to have a niche’ their clientele are the extremely naïve, very gullible and stupidly vulnerable.

Florida seems to be their stop off point in the US as many “419” scams begin and end in Florida. I think part of the reason is the immense elder population. And when you have millions of older people with connections to the Internet, something bad is bound to happen due to their inexperience with the medium.

“In March the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Highway Interdiction Unit conducted a routine traffic stop and found $20,800 in cash, black construction paper the size of dollar bills, several bottles of commonly known substances and a list of ingredients necessary to complete the “Black Wash/ Money Washing” scam.”

Honestly, I’d never heard of this one until recently, which would make me a target too!

Here’s the scam:

Scammers send thousands of phish emails regarding an unknown inheritance. Ok right there should be a red flag. But, for many who think their ship has come in, it’s opportunity. Unfortunately.

Once engaged the victim is told of the mass amounts of money needing to be snuck in/out of the country and it is dyed black to avoid detection by custom officials. OMG.

Once a meeting is arranged the victim is shown a trunk full of dyed black money, then to whet the appetite of the victims a few of the bills are pulled out and a magic solution cleans off a few nice crisp $100.00 bills. The victim now frothing at the mouth wants more.

The ruse is to get the victim to buy thousands of dollars of this magic cleaning solution for the promise of making hundreds of thousands of dollars. WOW.

Like a bait and switch shell game or 3 cards Monte, there is a bit of entertainment value in this scam and anyone who enjoys watching a stupid show like the Bachelor can get taken. Beware.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing scammers and thieves on The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch.

Creepy iPhone App Invites Security Risks

This is just nuts: “Situationist is an iPhone app that makes your everyday life more thrilling and unpredictable. It alerts members to each other’s proximity and gets them to interact in random “situations”. These situations vary from the friendly “Hug me for 5 seconds exactly” or “Compliment me on my haircut”, to the subversive e.g. “Help me rouse everyone around us into revolutionary fervor and storm the nearest TV station”. Members simply upload their photo and pick the situations they want to happen to them from a shortlist, in the knowledge that they might then occur anywhere, and at any time.”

The application comes equipped the ability to upload your photo and it turns your mobile into a GPS bull’s-eye.

Can you say “Please stalk me!?!”

I suppose there are plenty of people that like a surprise and plenty of others that enjoy the state of anticipation. For those types, this app may be the life distraction they need to get through the day.

The application developers address the issue of stalking asking the question in caps “WILL IT NOT ATTRACT STALKERS AND OTHER UNSAVOURY TYPES?” and give a rambling answer revolving around “moderation” and “vetting”.

In reality, this is one of the single greatest tools a stalker would have at their disposal to pay unwanted attention to an attention seeking thrillist.

OK folks, I think it’s plainly obvious that to download and activate this would mean you probably have too much time on your hands and not enough drama in your life. Seriously, all you need is get into a dysfunctional relationship and all your problems will be solved.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

Identity Theft Victim Held Hostage By Bank

The Huffington Post reports, “The Identity Theft Resource Center says Ty Powell is a victim of identity theft. Freddie Mac says he hasn’t paid his mortgage in two years. The local paper says he’s dead. Powell says, ‘I don’t know what to say.’”

Powell bought a house in Arizona from a builder, paying $217,000 in cash that he made playing professional basketball in Brazil. While he was in Brazil, someone sucked the equity out of the home to the tune of a $376,703 mortgage, and of course, defaulted. It is believed that the builder, who had the personal information on Powell, took out the loan and even paid some of the debt in order to keep the scheme until after Powell had taken possession of the house.

Then one day, Powell gets an eviction notice saying he has to move out of his home because of the unpaid mortgage. Unfortunately, it’s been demonstrated time and again that when it comes to being an identity theft victim, you are guilty until proven innocent.

Freddie Mac’s spokesperson replies, “We believe the foreclosure was legitimate because the loan secured by the property was in default. Despite a mortgage workout in 2008, no mortgage payment had been received since January 2009. We have also referred the matter to our fraud investigations unit.”

The local paper incorrectly reported that Powell had died of a heart attack. This was more than likely planted by the identity thief so that a death certificate would be issued, making it difficult for the bank to proceed.

Meanwhile, the scammers opened new credit card accounts and got a fraudulent driver’s license in Powell’s name.

Most, if not all, of this was preventable.

To ensure peace of mind —subscribe to an identity theft protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance and lost wallet protection. If your credit or debit cards are ever lost, stolen or misused without your authorization, you can call McAfee Identity Protection and they’ll help you cancel them and order new ones. If their product fails, you’ll be reimbursed for any stolen funds not covered by your bank or credit card company. Please see Guarantee for details. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how to protect yourself from identity theft on (Disclosures)

mCrime Takes A Leap Into Profitability For Criminals

Cellular phones are becoming a bigger target for crime. As smartphones continue replacing landlines and billions of new applications are downloaded, mobile crime, or mCrime, will inevitably increase.

McAfee’s threat report for the fourth quarter of 2010 reveals steady growth of threats to mobile platforms. New mobile malware increased by 46% in 2010. 20 million new threats were discovered last year, or 55,000 per day. McAfee Labs has identified a total of nearly 55 million pieces of malware. 36% of that malware was created in 2010.

Senior VP of McAfee Labs Vincent Weafer says, “Our Q4 Threats Report shows that cybercriminals are keeping tabs on what’s popular, and what will have the biggest impact from the smallest effort… In the past few quarters, malware trends have been very similar in different geographies, but in the last quarter we’ve seen a significant shift in various regions, showing that cybercriminals are tapped in to trends worldwide. McAfee Labs also sees the direct correlation between device popularity and cybercriminal activity, a trend we expect to surge in 2011.”

Protect yourself from malware and other threats. Spyware can be remotely or directly installed on your cell phone. Never click on links in texts or emails, since links may point toward malicious downloads. Keep your phone with you. Don’t let it out of your sight and don’t share it. Make sure your phone requires a password, as this makes it more difficult to install spyware.

If your phone is behaving oddly or you have some other reason to suspect that it contains spyware, reinstall the operating system. Consult your user manual or call your carrier’s customer service for step-by-step help with this process.

Invest in a service that can locate, lock, or wipe your phone, and even restore your data when you trade it in for a new one. If necessary, you’ll be able to lock down your service remotely or wipe out important stored data to protect your privacy. You can back up your data directly or use the web to so remotely. You can access your data online from anywhere, or locate your missing phone and plot the location on a map. If it’s lost or stolen, SIM cards and phone calls can help get it back for you.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses mobile phone spyware on Good Morning America. Disclosures

18 Snagged In Home Invasion Ring

When a municipality has an organized ring of home invaders you know they have problems.

In Fresno Country California a special task force including officers from the sheriff’s department, SWAT teams, and local police agencies had to be created to conquer the growing problem of home invasions in their district. As you know a home invasion occurs when the home owner is at home, there is forcible entry, a weapon is often involved and violence and theft is on the invaders agenda.

In states like New Hampshire the “Live Free or Die” state they have actually passed laws making the crime of home invasion a consideration for the death penalty.

In a concentrated period of time, there were at least 6 home invasions carried out by this gang. They used a common ruse to gain entry by posing as census workers and in some cases as tree trimmers.

When they pose as tree trimmers it often involves the homeowner being taken into the back yard while the invaders go in through the front door and ransack the home. reports “And in one case they actually took a photograph of the child in the house.  (They) threatened if they did call police; they had a picture of the child, knew what they looked like, and would harm them.  Jewelry has yet to be recovered; the task force did help uncover $25,000 in cash, along with eight weapons ranging from pistols to one automatic shotgun that was also seized during the serving of dozens of search warrants”

Prevent home invasions:

Never talk to strangers via an open or screen door. Home-invaders pose as delivery people, law enforcement or public workers.

If someone is in distress tell him or her you will call the police for them. Don’t open the door for them.

Under no circumstances do you open the door unless you get phone numbers to call their superiors. Even if that means making them wait outside while you call 411.

One reason your house is chosen is someone tipped off the home-invader that you have valuables. You may have done it via social media or your friends or children or baby sitter might have unintentionally bragged. Loose lips sink ships!

Install a home alarm. Be proactive with the help of ADT Pulse™, a new interactive smart home solution that goes beyond traditional home security to provide a new level of control, accessibility and connection with the home.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing ADT Pulse™ on Fox News.

Hackerville: The Epicenter of Romanian Hackers

Scammers and hackers often originate from Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, Korea, Israel, Columbia, Argentina, Philippines, Malaysia, and, of course, China and the good old USA. These developing countries breed MIT-like hackers who spend all their days targeting consumers and Internet users like you and me.

But Râmnicu Vâlcea is different. Wired describes the odd contrast between flapping clotheslines and the luxury Mercedes-Benz dealership in this small Romanian town, where young men in expensive jewelry drive luxury cars, all paid for with money from eBay scams, Craigslist scams, advanced fee scams, ATM skimming, phishing, infiltrating databases, new account fraud, and account takeover fraud.

Early scams were obvious but successful. English is a second language to Romanian scammers, so over the past decade, consumers caught on to the broken English and typos typical of phishing emails or classified scams. Romanian scammers responded by hiring English speakers to clean up their communication and give them an appearance of legitimacy.

Over time, U.S. authorities and corporations who were being defrauded caught on to Romania being the hub of organized computer crime, and so began flagging wire transfers, product shipments, and credit card orders. In response, scammers developed a distribution chain involving “mules,” who often ship products or collect money in countries like the United Kingdom, in order to avoid authorities monitoring Romanian IP addresses.

There are sophisticated anti-fraud companies that work around the clock to stay ahead of scammers to make the Internet a safer place to conduct business and interact.  One such company is Oregon-based iovation Inc. They have a highly effective fraud protection service called ReputationManager 360 offering device reputation management to determine if a PC, smartphone, or tablet has been used to commit fraud, regardless of the country of origin. Their device reputation management is the only solution that leverages the shared experience of global brands across numerous industries, with thousands of fraud professionals from major online brands reporting and sharing fraud and abuse attempts each day.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses another databreach on Good Morning America. (Disclosures)

Protecting Mail from Identity Theft

While criminal hackers are cracking databases and stealing millions of electronic records every year, street level identity thieves are a more insidious element of the identity theft epidemic. Thieves of this nature live in your neighborhood. In some parts of the country, local identity thieves tend to be meth heads.

Local identity thieves understand all too well that the money is in your mailbox. They simply open your mailbox and steal any mail that could provide an opportunity for identity theft.

Think about what comes in the mail. Bank, credit card, and financial statements. Utility, mobile phone, and membership statements. Pension, Social Security, and benefit statements. Employment, tax, and income statements. Checks, disbursements, and credit card offers.

These sensitive documents contain enough information for an identity thief to take over your existing accounts or open new accounts in your name. While some data is left off paper statements for privacy’s sake, they generally contain enough sensitive details for a thief to impersonate you over the phone in order to obtain even more details, enough to fill in the puzzle pieces of your identity.

Protect yourself by getting rid of paper statements. Electronic statements in your email inbox are eco-friendly and more manageable and secure than paper statements.

Get a mailbox with a lock. You can get a chain for under $60 at most hardware stores, which allow the carrier to put mail in the box, but requires a key to get mail out.

Get a P.O. box. Any sensitive mail that I can’t receive digitally goes to my P.O. box. A P.O. box is locked, and the only one with access is the postal carrier.

If you go more than a few days without receiving new mail, it may be getting stolen, so call the post office.

Pay attention to the delivery dates of all bills. You should know when to expect recurring mailings, so you’ll notice if they don’t arrive on schedule.

Have yourself removed from the Direct Marketing Association’s lists. Eliminate all unnecessary solicitation to minimize mail that creates a risk.

Opt out of preapproved credit card offers. Go to or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) and get removed now.

McAfee Identity Protection includes proactive identity surveillance to monitor subscribers’ credit and personal information and access to live fraud resolution agents who can help subscribers work through the process of resolving identity theft issues. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how a person becomes an identity theft victim on (Disclosures)

Stalker Caught in Madonna’s Mansion

The songstress wasn’t home at the time, but her security team was. Madonna’s London manse worth an estimated $10 million is equipped with security guards, cameras and a home alarm system. And while these are all effective layers of security and are often good deterrents they didn’t stop her stalker from breaking a window and climbing through.

However, her security team quickly picked up on the intrusion due to all the security technology in place and quickly apprehended him.

For most people, a basic home security system would do an effective job of keeping an intruder out or at least notifying law enforcement of a break-in and dispatch the police ASAP. However in the case of one of the world’s top 100 celebrities  security guards are necessary, and I believe she should have shatter proof glass film to prevent window breaks. Shatter proof glass film is affordable and doesn’t affect the clarity of the window.

The Sun reports “Madonna has had several stalkers. In October one was found with an ice pick after scrawling “Meet me” outside her New York apartment. Ex-Beatle George Harrison survived being stabbed by an intruder in Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, in 1999.”

Stalking is messy. Stalking is about domination. It is one or more persons continually making efforts to control another person’s life and thoughts by paying unwanted attention. Stalkers become obsessive investigators, interrogators, intimidators and terrorists. According to current statistics, almost a million and a half people are being stalked by an ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-husband, ex-wife, estranged husband, estranged wife, secret admirer, or an infatuated mentally unstable individual.

The most effective deterrent is an acute awareness of your environment at all times and investing in your security. Physical self defense education is necessary to give a person an edge in the event of attack. Home security systems and home security cameras are layers of protection that in most cases are effective deterrents.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing Home Security on NBC Boston.

5 Gotta Have Social Media Apps

Applications on mobile phones are all the rage. I spend more time on my apps than I do making calls. That time spent is often with those I connect with on social media.

Twitter and Facebook are the major players in social media and applications for them are a plenty.


FREE. TweetDeck is your mobile browser for staying in touch with what’s happening now on Twitter from your iPhone or iPod Touch. TweetDeck shows you everything you want to see at once, so you can stay organized and up to date no matter where you are.

Create groups, search Twitter, manage multiple accounts and easily post your tweets or share photos, link and much more. Plus sync your existing TweetDeck columns between your desktop and iPhone. Nice and easy.

Twitpic Poster

FREE. This is a simple app for sharing pictures on Twitter using Twitpic service.
It’s super easy, all is done in 3 taps:
1. Select an image or take a picture
2. Upload to Twitpic
3. Enter Twitter message

You can also just take a picture and email it to your Twitpic address, but I find the Twitpic Poster easier and less cumbersome.


FREE. Do you have multiple social media accounts? More than one Twitter? Facebook? MySpace?  Seesmic for iPhone lets you update and view multiple social networks in an efficient and powerful application. Manage multiple Twitter accounts, your Facebook account, a account and organize all your accounts, searches, trending topics and lists in your customizable dashboard.


FREE. Facebook for iPhone makes it easy to stay connected and share information with friends. Use your iPhone to start a conversation with Facebook Chat, check your friends’ latest photos and status updates, look up a phone number, or upload your own mobile photos to Facebook while on the go.


FREE. PingChat! is the ultimate way to communicate with all of your friends, whether they use an iDevice, Android or BlackBerry. PingChat! provides free, unlimited, cross-platform, smartphone-to-smartphone messaging, with real-time conversations, group chat, media sharing, and much more. Simply create a Ping! ID, share your ID with all your friends, and start Pinging!

You won’t need to pay your carrier for text messaging. Wi-Fi or your current data plan is all it takes to send messages. Some apps offer free texting, but are exclusive to the U.S, or support few other carriers.

Send photos, videos, voice notes, contacts and map locations seamlessly directly in your conversations.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. Disclosures

Go “New and Shiny” or Wait?

Keeping up on the latest advances in technology has always been my thing. I once had a beeper the size of a pack of cigarettes, and a mobile phone bigger than a shoebox.  I’m something of a gadget geek and a wannabe innovator. I like new and shiny.  .

You probably haven’t run across the name Everett Rogers in People Magazine. In 1962, Everett Rogers developed a theory for the adoption of innovations.

According to Rogers, innovators are the first individuals to adopt a new innovation, and are often the inventors themselves. Innovators are risk takers with close ties to scientific sources and connections to other innovators. Because of their high tolerance for risk, innovators often adopt technologies that ultimately fail.

Early adopters are the second wave of individuals to adopt an innovation. These individuals are opinion leaders, and realize that early adoption will help maintain their position as central communicators.

The early majority tends to be slower to adopt an innovation. They have less contact with early adopters and seldom hold positions of opinion leadership.

The late majority approaches innovation with a high degree of skepticism and waits to adopt until after the innovation has been widely embraced by society. This group displays very little opinion leadership.

Laggards, the last to adopt an innovation, are basically dinosaurs. These individuals, who tend to be advanced in age, show almost no opinion leadership and are typically resistant to change.

Early adopters are willing to camp out overnight, wait in line, and spend lots of money for an item that is not ready for prime time. Many new technologies have flaws that should be resolved before you make a commitment.

One example of early adoption is using a browser that’s still in beta. I can tell you firsthand, this is a painful process, yet once you go beta, you never go back. The newest browser lures you in with enticing bells and whistles, but has the stability of a toddler just learning to walk. This frustrating scenario involves plenty of reboots.

Influencers are going to go New and Shiny. That’s what they do. They are the pavers of the road and we thank them for that.

But unless your business or job requires you to be on the cutting edge, I’d recommend that most people wait until the early majority begins to adopt a new technology. That way, you get to check out the new and shiny thing without the hassles, headaches, and instability. Let others learn from the mistakes, and then you can benefit from their efforts.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discussing Digital picture frames with built in viruses on Fox News. Disclosures