Reporter’s Identity Stolen

It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, if you have good credit or bad credit, pay with cash or credit card, whether or not you use the Internet, or even own a computer. You can be a maintenance worker or a scientist. It doesn’t matter.

Whether you are alive or even if you are dead, as long as you have a Social Security number, you are a potential identity theft victim.

Reporters tend to be fairly savvy and well informed. Identity theft, however, is a complicated issue, and anyone can be stumped, regardless of your level of security intelligence.

One reporter received an alert about “irregular check card activity.” It was sent late one weeknight, and she didn’t see the email until the following night. At first, she couldn’t believe her bank account could have been compromised, and suspected it was a phishing email designed to trick her into disclosing her account information. But when she called her bank, she learned that nearly all her money had already been stolen.

“I soon discovered I was a victim of identity theft and that a woman posing as me in California was allowed to spend and withdraw all of my family’s money in two linked accounts from my bank, without stealing my debit or credit cards. She took more than $40,000.”

The thief used a fake driver’s license, which replaced the victim’s ID in the bank’s computer, signed documents with a signature that looked nothing like the victim’s, and gave the bank a new phone number and address. She took over and cleaned out two accounts, one of which was a checking account used for family expenses, and the other was an investment account.

After a great deal of stress and aggravation, the victim and her husband managed to get their stolen savings reimbursed by their bank. She still doesn’t know how the thief managed to steal her identity, or if she was ever caught.

Identity theft can happen to anyone. McAfee Identity Protection offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. McAfee puts victims first and provides live access to fraud resolution agents who work with victims to help restore stolen identities, even from thefts that occurred prior to subscribing to McAfee’s service.

For additional tips, visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss scambaiting on Fox News. (Disclosures)

Beauty Queen Guns Down Home Invader

An ex-con picked the wrong home to invade.

Imagine you’re in bed counting sheep dreaming of clouds and flying unicorns. Suddenly there is a knock on the door, which is startling to most people who wake up to the presence of noise and especially that of a knock at 3am.

In your discombobulated state you shuffle over to the door and open it to see who it is, they give you some song and dance and you open the door. Next, a hand wrapped over your face nose and mouth.

In my world this would never happen as previously described. In my world when the door is knocked on or the bell is rung a ferocious toothy German shepherd would lose her mind trying to get through the door, while I’m looking at my security cameras to see who is at the front door.  At the same time I’m accessing an intercom to begin dialog all the while ready to press a panic button on my home security alarm.

If the person at the door is in uniform I’m calling the police to determine if they are supposed to be there. If the person is someone I do not know there isn’t a reason they can give me that will motivate me to open the door.

If all else fails I have plenty of backup beyond the burglar biting beast.

Fox News reports “the invader barged into the home at around 3 a.m. after she responded to a knock at the front door, according to a police report. He allegedly grabbed the 110-pound beauty queen around her nose and mouth and dragged her to an upstairs bedroom. The woman’s fiancé said in an interview that he was quickly awakened by the altercation and ran to her side.”

“I attacked him and took a severe beating to the head,” “But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 special.”

She shot the suspect several times – hitting him in the chest, groin, thigh and back. He was pronounced dead at the scene. At least 4 shots. Dang girl, DANG! Three shots in the front and one in the back, she got him running away!!!!

It was believed the intruder conspired with a pizza delivery man who frequented the home recognizing a $60,000 diamond ring on her finger along with the pizza dude being tasked to change hundred dollar bills each time they bought a pie.

Displaying material wealth can lead to these situations.

For anyone of any income level, spending a buck a day on a home security system is a no brainer. It’s all about priorities people!

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

Butler Charged With Home Invasion

Every time I ask my butler to take out the trash or get me some Grey Poupon mustard he gives me lip. I’ve relegated him to cleaning my Bentley every day with a tooth brush.

When people think about protecting themselves from the bad guy, they mostly think about a stranger, someone not known to them who have evil intentions. However, all too often it is someone known to the victim.

The term “inside job” is of course when those known to the victim or institution are responsible for the crime.

Insiders are put in a position of trust. They have details at their disposal that enables them to pull off a heist with ease and those details may have them believe their chances of getting caught lessen.

Inside jobs are often played out in movies with an air of truth where a gangster works as a security guard or a bank teller feigns a robbery done by her boyfriend. When I was in high school, two kids I knew worked at a local gas station and had the bright idea to pocket the days proceeds and call the police to report as robbery.

They got away with it, for a day. Their boss was a hulking and imposing man and when he drilled them on what happened he noticed one of them cracking, then he pounded harder until they both broke. reports “A former butler of a billionaire socialite has been charged in connection with the 2007 home invasion at her estate, where authorities say the assailants injected her with what they claimed was poison in a failed plot to extort $8.5 million.

Three men dressed all in black, wearing hoods and carrying guns and what appeared to be accordion cases or small suitcases, snuck into the home. The victims were blindfolded and tied up in her bedroom while the assailants roamed the house looking for safes. Investigators believed that the men were familiar with the house because they knew its layout and apparently were aware that its elaborate alarm system either wasn’t working or wasn’t turned on that night.”

While the enemy here is the butler, the catalyst that fueled the crime was “trust”. Trust is an inherent trait we require to function. Without it we would cease to move forward.

And while you need to trust, you shouldn’t let your guard down. Contractors, baby sitters, house cleaners, family members, anyone knocking on your door, those in uniforms or holding badges and especially butlers! can all abuse trust.

Home security cameras, home security alarms and other layers of protection help keep those you trust honest.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston.

Back Up Your Backup, Then Back Up Again!

If you aren’t in the habit of backing up your data, you might assume that it’s difficult or tedious. But I’ve got news for you, it’s easy-peasy. Nowadays, backing up is a complete no brainer.

There are many backup options. New PCs often come bundled with backup options included in the “bloat ware.” Microsoft Windows 7 comes with “Windows Restore/Back Up” accessible via the Control Panel, and Macs offer a backup option called Time Machine. You can buy an external hard drive to copy your files to, or invest in a remote backup service.

I suggest backing up twice on local drives and once in the cloud.

Cloud backup options include Mozy, McAfee, and Carbonite.

Mozy online backup costs $6 per month to back up 50 gigabytes of data on one computer, or $110.00 a year for 125 gigabytes on up to three computers. Mozy offers an easy to use interface and quick, effortless backups of every file type, including files on external drives. If you have over 110 gigabytes, though, it gets pricey.

McAfee online backup costs $5 per month, and works exactly like Mozy, except that as of this writing, users receive unlimited backup for that $5 monthly fee.

Carbonite online backup offers unlimited storage from one computer for under $5 per month. Carbonite is inexpensive with an easy to use interface that allows you to access your data via an iPhone app, which is very cool. Unfortunately, Carbonite won’t back up external drives, backing up certain media, like videos, is slow, and you have to manually check your folders to make sure everything has successfully been backed up. Also, certain files , like software programs with a variety of unusual file extensions, have to be zipped beforehand, since Carbonite won’t back up the individual files with odd extensions.

My 200-gigabyte C: drive came built into my PC as the main operating system drive. My E: drive is a secondary 2TB drive installed in the slot most PCs provide for a second drive. And I have a 2-terrabyte external drive, my F: drive, which I keep running 24/7. I paid $80.00 for a 2TB E: drive and $104.00 for a 2TB external drive. I also have unlimited cloud-based backup, which is accessible for $60 a year. And for $20, I’ve installed Goodsync.

All my data is on stored on my E: drive, filling more than three quarters of the 2-terrabyte internal drive. Drive E is my primary data drive, and gets backed up to the cloud and synced to the external 2-terrabyte F: drive. Goodsync automatically syncs my internal E: drive and external F: drive every two hours. I do this because, while all my data is stored in the cloud, if my internal drive does crash, downloading it all would be a chore, plus, I’d need a drive to download it too, anyway.

The cloud is ideal for mitigating major catastrophes, like fires, but not practical for accessing data on a daily basis.

That’s it. Two local backups and one cloud-based backup. Do it today. It’s easy-peasy.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. (Disclosures)

Bold Signage Offers Intimidating Layer of Protection

GUNS GUNS GUNS. People love their GUNS.

Guns are deadly. And as far as the constitution insinuates, that’s the whole point.

Frankly, I like the feel of a gun’s craftsmanship and the occasional target or clay pigeon shooting. The idea of guns makes sense to me for purposes of protection, although, I’m always concerned with guns in the wrong hands, which, unfortunately is a lot of unstable people.

A gun of course is a layer of protection and has been proven to protect civilians, military, police officers, and others in high risk professions every day.

What scares me is people who hide behind their guns in a way that their sweaty grip on them clouds common sense. And of course there is a much higher chance that a gun owner or their family can be killed by their own firearm in their own home too.

Texans love their guns, and again, there’s nothing wrong with that so please don’t send me hate comments.

Fox news reports “a 71-year-old Texas woman has a message for the person who broke into her home last week, “Try to break into this house again, your head will be blown off!” Its message is written in bold, capital letters and is accompanied by a picture of a handgun”, on her front lawn. You go girl.

The woman’s son had the sign made in response to a home invasion.

The intruder kicked her door in and her dogs started barking and hissing which may have given the intruder paws (I mean pause) and he fled.

The sign now warns that the burglar, and the millions of others who may pass through Lufkin Texas, that a little old lady and her Chihuahua are packing heat.

She at least needs a home security system, and probably a bigger watchdog, and a better door.

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

What Identity Theft Protection Looks Like

You hear a lot about identity theft protection these days. But what does it look like? I’ve subscribed to no less than six different services in the last decade.

Most of them make their presence felt in the form of a charge on your credit card statement, and that’s about it. One thing I like about McAfee is the fact that, when you get an alert, they’ll hold your hand through the process.

When a check was made on my credit file, I received the following message:

Dear Robert Siciliano,

As a McAfee Identity Protection member, you are receiving this automatic notification email because activity recently has been posted to your account through one or more of our industry leading services:

A. 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring

B. Internet Scanning, including chat rooms

C. Change of Address monitoring

Posted account activity doesn’t necessarily indicate identity theft. However, it can be an early indication of fraudulent activity. That’s why it’s important to always review any alerts you receive from us.

Please take the following steps immediately to examine this information and determine if this activity is authorized.

Check Your Alert – To view your complete alert report, please login here and click on “Unviewed Alerts.”

Verify The Activity – If you are aware of the change(s) and agree with the items on your alert, no action is needed on your part.

Contact Us – If you have any questions or concerns regarding your alert, including information you believe to be either inaccurate or fraudulent, please contact Customer Support immediately at 1-866-622-3911. For your convenience we are here for you daily from 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM (Pacific Time).

Remember, McAfee Identity Protection is with you every the step of the way. In the event you suspect identity theft, our dedicated Fraud Resolution Team will work closely with you to help you understand and investigate your alerts immediately.

Thank you for choosing McAfee Identity Protection to help protect your identity.


McAfee, Inc.

This alert was triggered when a mortgage broker checked my credit report, with permission. I got this alert within a day of the credit check. When I logged into my McAfee account, I was able to see the actual credit check on McAfee’s dashboard.

Had the alert been triggered by anything other than a legitimate credit check, I would have called McAfee’s fraud resolution agents, who would have immediately begun a process of alerting any creditors to possible fraud. That’s comforting.

To ensure peace of mind, subscribe to an identity theft protection service, such as McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts.

For additional tips, visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss how to protect yourself from identity theft on (Disclosures)

My Top 5 Mobile Commerce Apps

The day when your wallet becomes a relic, like an 8-track tape, isn’t here quite yet. But we are getting close.

Thinning out your wallet isn’t just nice for your pants pocket. It’s also a good way to minimize your risk for identity theft, should your wallet ever be lost or stolen. As long as you’re keeping your smartphone safe and secure, the following mobile payment options offer safe, convenient alternatives to traditional payments.

Mint: Personal finance tools from help you track, budget, and manage your money while you’re on the go. Sign up for a free account, add your online banking and credit card accounts, and access your personal finances, all from your iPhone. One cool feature Mint offers is optional alerts to any high dollar transactions.

Square: This application and free credit card reader allow users to accept credit cards via iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch without a contract, monthly fees, or merchant account required. You can become your own merchant with this truly amazing app, which is ready to take payments within minutes of downloading. This can be handy when splitting a dinner check with a group in which everyone has a credit card, but no cash.

KeyRing: Never carry plastic or paper loyalty, membership, or library cards again! You can save time, space, and money by storing cards and coupons on your phone, so you’ll never miss a discount at the point of sale again. I especially like that KeyRing fully backs up your credit and store cards. Not every merchant is ready to accept a digital card at this point, but many are, and the number is increasing.

Paypal: Send money to your friends, manage your account, and more with the PayPal app. It’s free, secure, and more convenient than going to an ATM, writing checks, or sending gifts the traditional way.

I haven’t listed my bank’s application because they don’t currently offer mobile check deposit. But if your bank does, add them to the list, because that’s cool.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. (Disclosures)

Mobile Phone Operating System Insecurity

As more online retailers introduce mobile ecommerce applications, criminal hackers are taking notice. Existing mobile operating systems are under attack and, like standard PC operating systems, they sometimes fail to provide the necessary security to support a payment application.

Current research is primarily geared towards securing mobile payments, but there is a lack of coordination between mobile payment developers, device manufacturers, and mobile operating system platform developers. Hackers are taking advantage of the loophole created by this lack of coordination.

Mobile phone spyware has been a concern for years. Legitimate software companies sell mobile phone spyware that allows the user to monitor a spouse, kids, or employees. And criminals deploy mobile phone spyware, as well.

Beijing-based mobile security services firm NetQin Technology reports that an application called Xwodi, which allows third parties to eavesdrop on cell phone conversations, has infected more than 150,000 phones in China. Apparently, the malware targets mobiles running the Symbian platform, and monitors phones by silently activating the conference call feature or microphone.

One security company, Trusteer, informed The New York Times, “Mobile users are three times more likely to fall for phishing scams than PC users…because mobile devices are activated all the time, and small-screen formatting makes the fraud more difficult to spot.” In the same article, another mobile security firm, Lookout, claimed that in May 2010, 9 out of 100 phones scanned for malware and spyware were infected. That’s up from 4 out of 100 infected phones in December 2009.

Protect yourself by refraining from clicking links in text messages, emails, or unfamiliar webpages displayed on your phone’s browser. Set your mobile phone to lock automatically and unlock only when you enter a PIN. Consider investing a service that locates a lost phone, locks it, and if necessary, wipes the data, as well as restoring that data on a new phone. Keep your phone’s operating system updated with the latest patches, and invest in antivirus protection for your phone.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses spyware on FOX Boston. (Disclosures)

Phishers Using Holidays and Social Media to Target

Recent reports of “The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, has been forced to shut down its email systems and all Internet access for employees since late last Friday, following a sophisticated cyberattack.”

The sophisticated cyber attack was reported to be the lowly unsophisticated phishing email.

Phishing is emerging as sophisticated due to ways in which the phish emails are disguised to look like legitimate communications often from other trusted employees on the inside.

The criminals behind these emails are doing their research on company websites finding key individuals to model and following up their research on Facebook and LinkedIn to make their phish emails more personal.

And while criminals are still targeting “whales” or CEOs of major corporations and their officers, they are using similar attacks on consumers, as well.

McAfee Labs discovered an attack this week with the subject line “Easter Greeting” that was spammed broadly and is currently hitting inboxes around the globe.  The e-mail that depicts a colorful picture of a bunny, chicks, and eggs has the subject line, “Easter Greeting From Alex.”  The clickable text at the bottom of the message reads “Download Animated Greeting Here” which is a booby trapped message that leads directly to malware and puts an infected PC under the control of the attacker who attempts to steal passwords and other personal information.

Since the threat has already been identified by McAfee Labs, McAfee software will protect customers against it.

This event is a good reminder for consumers to keep these basic computer safety rules in mind:

Don’t click on links in e-mail messages and be extra suspicious of messages like this Easter Greeting.  If you think it is legitimate, ask the supposed sender by sending a separate e-mail if they sent you a greeting.

Run a full, up-to-date suite of security software.

Ensure your operating system and other applications have the latest patches.

With more than 11 million victims just last year identity theft is a serious concern.  McAfee Identity Protection offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your financial accounts. Educate and protect yourself – please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

Pickpockets, a Dying Breed

If there were a criminal hall of fame with an award for the coolest criminal, it would have to go to the pickpocket. Pickpockets are sneaky creatures who manage to function exactly one degree below the radar.

Pickpockets whisper through society, undetected and undeterred. They are subtle and brazen at the same time. They are like bed bugs, crawling on you and injecting numbing venom that prevents you from detecting their bite until it’s much too late. They aren’t violent like a drug-crazed mugger, or confrontational like a stick-up robber. They have more gumption than criminal hackers, since they don’t hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.

NPR reports that nowadays, picking pockets has become a rare and increasingly difficult crime, thanks to “stepped-up surveillance in most public places,” the dismantling of systems of apprenticeship, heftier sentences, and the widespread use of debit cards.

One pickpocket is quoted as saying, “When people stopped carrying money, that was the beginning of the end of pickpocketing…Pickpockets have no respect for thugs or robbers. We consider them ancient. Prehistoric. We feel that anybody can stick a gun in a person’s face — that’s not hard to do. But to take a person’s money and them not knowing it’s gone — that’s the art of it. That’s the cleverness of it.”

Identity thieves serve as the modern incarnation of pickpockets. They slip into your mailbox or hack into your PC while you sleep. They are daring, cunning, and have ample choice of targets.

There was a time when pickpockets could make a couple thousand dollars in a day. Identity thieves can now make tens of thousands of dollars in a single day.

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, McAfee will 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. (See McAfee’s guarantee for details.)

For additional tips, visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)