Beware of Wedding Crashers This Season

Here is why home security video systems are essential. In the movie “Wedding Crashers” actors Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson crashed weddings in pursuit of women and wine. Their antics were perceived as relatively harmless because they were two fun guys injecting their lively fun attitudes into the party.

But in the real world a wedding crasher is a thief. They either steal a meal or more than likely steal the newlywed’s gifts.

In one of my past lives between bartending, barroom bouncing, pipefitting and beginning a security business I was a wedding DJ. Never be a wedding DJ if you don’t want to go head to head with a bridezilla and her mother.

At the end of one wedding I worked, the bride and groom along with a few from the wedding party were frantically scouring the room looking for the bag of envelopes. At one point the bride came up to me with her voice raised and accusatorily asked me if I knew where the bag was. Her husband quickly apologized and whisked her away. All I could do is feel bad.

Unfortunately for them the facility had no surveillance cameras and the gifts were located at the opposite side of the room from me and near the entrance/exit. Someone easily walked in and out and ruined and chance achieving a storybook wedding.

Outside of Boston two women were recently caught on video surveillance stealing over $2800.00 and several stolen items from a wedding. Both women dressed for the occasion, mingled, and eventually made their heist. Once the fraud was discovered the couple quickly called security and the police were notified. More than likely the thief’s car was identified on camera leaving the parking lot and the police got a plate number because they were able to go directly to the thieves homes and recover the lost goods.

In this case security video saved the day. In the future it would also make sense to have signage informing potential thieves they are on surveillance. This added layer of protection will stop many thieves.

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

Get Digitally Secure before it’s Mandatory

For the past decade, much of banking has taken place online, after hundreds of years of traditional banking. Banks have streamlined their processes, but must also cope with fraud. With banks absorbing billions in losses, consumers also pay.

In a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. residents, 60% responded that dealing with fraud is the banks’ responsibility, while only 6% believed that responsibility rests with consumers. 48% said they were concerned about the risk of fraud, and 14% had fallen victim to fraud in the last two years.

Advances in technology have made banking more convenient but have also outpaced consumers’ security intelligence. It is possible to secure systems against most cybercrime but that level of security often proves too inconvenient for consumers. As long as banks continue absorbing losses from fraud, consumers remain blissfully ignorant of the consequences of inadequate security.

Meanwhile, other countries take different approaches. South Korea has introduced a “Zombie PC Prevention Bill,” which makes installing and using security software mandatory for all citizens. A New Zealand law reserves the government’s right to confirm that personal computers are adequately protected.

Protect your computer by setting its operating system to automatically update critical security patches. Always run antivirus software and set virus definitions to update automatically. Use a protected wireless network and make sure your firewall is protecting both incoming and outgoing traffic.

Never click links within the body of an email. Instead, go to your favorites menu or type the address into the address bar. And be sure to check your online bank statements frequently.

You can find more tips from JustAskGemalto on how to bank safely online here.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses credit and debit card fraud on CNBC. Disclosures


10 Covert Ways to Hide Your Valuables

Even though you have a home security system installed…right? You should still hide and lock up your stuff.

Burglars are generally aware that a woman’s jewelry is either in her jewelry box on top of her dresser or in her underwear drawer. For men, it’s in a similar place or sitting in a little dish next to the bed. These methods aren’t exactly covert.

A safe is your best bet. Wall and floor safes can be hidden and other heavy box safes can be bolted to the floor.

Here are some options:

1.    Buy or build a “Book Safe”. A book safe is a carved out book containing your most valuable valuables. Here is a DIY security book safe or do a search online and buy one.

2.    Hollow out an appliance. If you are mechanically inclined and have nothing more than a screw driver and wire snips you can gut anything from a power strip to a blender to a coffeemaker.

3.    Install a fake wall electric outlet or switch. This is also a buy or build.

4.    Use an air vent. If your home has “forced air” and you have air blowing for heat or cooling then any one of your horizontal vents can be a hiding place. Just make sure it’s a vent that doesn’t immediately lead to a drop.

5.    Can Safes. This is a buy or build. Mostly a buy. These are regular looking soda or aerosol cans that have a removable top or bottom. They are cheap enough to buy. But be careful with this because they can be mistaken as something you may not need and thrown away.

6.    Use your freezer. The best way to accomplish this is to freeze a smaller plastic bowl with nothing in it within a larger plastic bowl surrounded by tomato sauce. If a burglar looks in your freezer they see gravy.

7.    Hollow out a pillow. If you sew, this is an easy one.

8.    Make false inner pockets in clothing. Designate an older suit or dress that you don’t wear and put pockets in it.

9.    Use lamps or ceiling mounted lights. Lamps often have an hole  to insert anything. You may need a ladder for ceiling mounted lights so only put things in there you don’t access often.

10. Shoes. It’s easy enough to slide something in a pair of shoes then put a sock in there to contain it.

The key to improvised home security through obscurity is NOT to hide anything on the fly. Meaning designate a spot now and always use it. The day you quickly hide something in a lamp before you go on vacation is the day you lose what you hid because you will spend 6 months looking for it and think the house cleaners stole it. Yes, I know this from experience.

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

Famous Burglar Caught, Another Killed

Yet another reason to invest in home security systems.

Some people work in a building, others on construction sites. Some work in banks and some in people’s homes. Burglars and bandits go to work to rob banks and homes and that’s a normal days work for them.

A dude named Robert James Neese famous for burglarizing Dan Quayle the former Vice President under Bush Sr is known as the “Rock Burglar” and got his name by tossing rocks through a glass door or windows to gain entry to his victim’s homes. How original.

Neese racked up a reported 337 break-ins over 17 years and stole an estimated $10 million in cash and jewels. He was busted in Arizona and now instead of throwing rocks he’ll be breaking them on a chain gang.

Another famous burglar in Georgia known as the Grandma Bandit wasn’t a grandma at all, but just another (more than likely) drug addicted dude who donned a grandma disguise and posed as a cancer patient at numerous drug stores and would ask for drugs, then demand money.

After a string of robberies police released security surveillance video and photos of the robber who was eventually identified by a concerned citizen who called the police. And unfortunately for the Grandma Bandit, that police chase ended badly. He was eventually shot and killed by police.

Unfortunately there will be someone to take these burglars place. Invest in your home security and adhere to the home security tips below:

Install signage. “Beware of Dog” and “This House is Alarmed” neon signs for $1.98. One for the front door and one for the back door.

Go to the pet store. Get 2 big dog bowls, one for the front porch and one for the back. Write “Killer” in permanent marker on it. This gives the impression you have a big dog. You can even buy a barking dog alarm.

Lock your doors and windows. Install a monitored alarm system. Consider ADT Pulse that comes with a battery backup even when the poser goes out.

Give your home that lived in look. Leave the TV on LOUD while you are gone.

Install timers on your lights both indoor and outdoor. Close the shades to prevent peeping inside.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source

Auction Fraud is the Third Most Common Internet Complaint

The Internet Crime Complaint Center fielded 303,809 reports of cybercrime in 2010. Of those cybercrime reports, auction fraud was the third most common complaint.

Auction fraud refers to fraudulent transactions on online auctions. Either a product advertised for sale is misrepresented, or purchases are never delivered at all.

The IC3’s annual report explains, “Historically, auction fraud has been the leading complaint reported by victims, with a high of 71.2 percent of all referrals in 2004. However, in 2010, auction fraud represents slightly more than 10 percent of referrals. This demonstrates the growing diversification of crimes related to the Internet.”

In other words, auction fraud is still profitable for scammers, and they’ve also discovered many new techniques for scamming consumers.

IC3 advises consumers against conducting online transactions with anyone who exhibits the following suspicious behavior:

  • The seller creates an online auction as though he resides in the United States, but responds to buyers with an email claiming he’s outside the United States for business reasons or a family emergency. Or, the seller posts the auction under one name, but asks for payment to be transferred to a different name.
  • The seller requests payment via Western Union, MoneyGram, or bank-to-bank wire transfer. This makes the money virtually unrecoverable once the victim discovers the scam. Any transaction involving a money transfer control number (MTCN) may indicate fraud.
  • The seller poses as an authorized dealer or factory representative in a country where there are no such dealers.
  • The buyer asks for a purchase to be shipped to another via a particular method in order to avoid customs or taxes.
  • The buyer uses a credit card for which the billing address does not match the shipping address. Always secure the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any purchased items.

Online classified and auction websites could prevent fraud and protect their users by incorporating device reputation management. One anti-fraud service getting lots of attention for its fast and effective results is iovation’s ReputationManager 360. This service incorporates device identification, device reputation, and real-time risk profiling. It is used by hundreds of online businesses to prevent fraud and abuse by analyzing the computer, smartphone, or tablet connecting to their online properties.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses scammers and thieves on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. (Disclosures)

Craigslist Scammers Ship Checks Via FedEx

FedEx isn’t responsible for this scam, but their brand unintentionally lends credibility to the scammers, who reference FedEx in their scammy emails, knowing that aligning with FedEx helps their scam proliferate. It’s an insidious ruse that hurts all involved.

FedEx can and should deny suspicious online transactions. Moneygram and Western Union could also make some effort to deter scammers. It’s hard to weed out the bad guys, but there are technologies that help.

What kind of scam am I talking about? A good friend recently called to ask what I know about check scams. He had received a $2,400 check from a major chemical company via FedEx. He had no idea why, but mentioned that he had placed an add on Craigslist, asking $150 for an item he wished to sell, and that a deaf woman had called him through a translating service and offered to FedEx a check.

I explained that this is advanced fee fraud, or a shipping scam, and that he will undoubtedly receive an email demanding that the difference be paid to shippers.

Maybe the scammer pretended to be deaf, using the translator service as a third party to scramble the caller’s location. Or maybe the buyer really was a deaf woman.

But why send a check for $2,400, and why from a chemical company? Probably because it was the only seemingly legitimate check the scammer had printed up at the time, and it’s a nice score if he sends back the $2,250 difference.

My buddy was flabbergasted to think that anyone would fall for such a scam, and insisted that if someone came to his house to pick up the purchased item and demanded he pay the purchaser $2,250, he’d punch them in the face.

Shortly after getting off the phone with me, he received this email:

“Hello Dean,

How are you doing today?

The check has been delivered via Fedex,Thanks for your honesty towards this transaction so far.Well, the overpayment is meant to cover the cost of shipment for the item alongside my other properties including tax and insurance plus the movers and agent fees.

Please deposit the check today so that it clears tomorrow after the check has cleared,All you have to do is go the bank and have the rest of the money withdrawn in cash and have it sent to the movers via money gram

Here’s the movers information below.

Name : Jason Shambaugh

Address : 2330 Contra Costa Blv

City : Pleasant Hill

state : CA

Post code : 94523

Do let me know your schedule for the week regarding pickup as i have some other properties to be moved alongside the item. Please do act accordingly as agreed after deducting your money for the item, make the rest fund available to the movers via money gram Money Transfer at any of their outlet around you or check on{click find us} and check for their outlets around and get back to me with the transfer details below (as it appears on the receipt) so i can contact the movers for the pick-up at your location ….Deduct the money gram money transfer charges from my fund also $50 for yourself (meant for any hassle or run around).

1}Sender’s name and address

2}Reference number {which is the 8 digits number on the Money Gram receipt}

3}Actual amount sent after the fee had been deducted

Hope i can trust you with the overpayment? Your Honesty and transparency will be appreciated”

The email also included the FedEx tracking information, with my friend’s address. Looking up the shipping address on Google maps reveals an office building, which most likely has some vacancies. The scammer probably has some connection to the building, allowing for anonymous shipments.

Craigslist could easily prevent the majority of these scams easily by using device reputation management. Many Craigslist scammers based in Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, Korea, Israel, Columbia, Argentina, the Philippines, and Malaysia spend their days targeting consumers in the developed world. But real-time device reputation checks, such as those offered by iovation, can detect computers that have been used for auction fraud and expose all of the accounts associated with the suspicious device or group of devices. This provides Craigslist and other websites with the opportunity to instantly shut down sophisticated fraud rings and thousands of fraudulent accounts.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses scambaiting on Fox News. (Disclosures)

Virus Hijacks Online Banking Session

Online banking is great. I highly recommend it. But if you aren’t careful to keep your computer secure, getting hacked can turn your online banking session into a nightmare.

OddJob Trojan is the latest in malware and yet another reason to beef up your computer’s security. OddJob hijacks online banking sessions, keeping users’ accounts open after they think they’ve quit. Hackers can then access the open account to make fraudulent transactions.

When your computer’s security is lax, you’re vulnerable to malware or malicious software. An old, outdated, or unsupported browser, operating system, or antivirus program leaves you open to a virus designed to steal your sensitive personal data.

Are you seeing a theme here? Get new, up-to-date operating systems, browsers, and antivirus programs. If you use a PC, I’d strongly recommend Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4, or Chrome. All four can be set to update critical security patches and software updates automatically.

I recommend paying for the latest in antivirus protection. If your software license has expired, pay for a new one. If you use a free antivirus program, upgrade to a paid version. You should do this because free antivirus software relies on manual settings rather than automatic scans and updates.

The OddJob Trojan slipped past antivirus software. Keeping your computer’s security updated with the latest definitions is the best way to add layers of protection.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto, discusses online banking security on CBS Boston. Disclosures

Preparing a Mobile or PC for Resale or Donation

You may have read my last post where I talked about “Clean the Clutter” out of your life and sell all the stuff you don’t absolutely need. In my Clean the Clutter process I sold 1 Windows XP laptop computer (missing lots of keys), 2 Windows XP desktops and 5 mobile phones all on Craigslist.

Prior to selling my electronics I wiped all the data off of each device. Cleaning all the data off your salable electronics is absolutely essential in our identity theft prone world.

It’s easy.

Reinstall your operating system: The best and quickest want to clean your data is to re-install the operating system. For Windows based PCs insert your operating systems disk and restart the PC. When restarting keep hitting F12 or your PC may want you to hit F2 or F8 and select “boot from CD” and follow the prompts. Most data forensics guys will tell you to reinstall 3 times to really clean it out. Microsoft has more instructions here that just confuses me: or use KillDisk HERE

Clean your Phone: For mobile phones you want to do a factory reset. All software to do this is already on the phone.

Android factory reset: Menu > Settings > Privacy > Factory data reset.

iPhone factory reset: Settings > General > Reset > reset all settings.

Blackberry factory reset: Options > Security Options > General Settings > Menu > Wipe Handheld.

Windows 7 phone factory reset: Settings > About > Reset Phone

Any other operating systems or Symbian based phones you will need to do a search on your phone online such as “Phone Name, Model Number, Carrier, Factory reset”

Remember to remove or wipe any media like SD cards and CD/DVDs too.

Otherwise get a drill and poke lots of holes in the device and its hard drive or hit it with a sledge hammer. This may be lots of fun, however this may make it less saleable.

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


Cleaning the Clutter Out of Your Life

While anyone who reads me knows I’m all about personal security and preaching the need for home security systems, I’m also a big advocate for personal balance too. Meaning I come from the old school of motivation, personal responsibility, eating right, exercise, healthy relationships, perspective, spirituality etc. You get the picture.

You may know or have heard, if you don’t like your life, change it.

Anyway, one of the first steps that one can do to get order in their life is to remove the clutter. That clutter can be people or things. And for the purposes of this post we are talking things.

First, it’s Spring, which means Spring cleaning, which means looking inside and outside your home at everything you haven’t touched in a year. Do you really need it? That’s often a hard question to answer. That tool you bought that you used, and may use again, but haven’t used it for two years, do you really need it?

Here are some tips:

#1 Toss or recycle everything that is of no value to you or anyone else. That’s the quickest way to clean out.

#2 Determine what you can donate. Give it away. The Salvation Army or Good Will and many Big Brothers/Big Sisters take donations. Pack up your trunk and donate it. Sometimes they will pick it up too.

#3 Sell it on eBay. I’m amazed at what people will buy off of eBay. I’ve sold more broken down items that I specifically said were broken down. Selling electronics and other harder to find or odd items are easily sold on eBay. List it for bid at .99 and accept what you get and move on. Get the eBay mobile application and walk around your house and start listing all the stuff on shelves and in boxes. It took me less than an hour to list 19 items.

#4 Sell it on Craigslist. I’m further amazed at what people buy on Craigslist. Get the CraigsPro app and start snapping. I like this the best because it’s so easy that all of a sudden you start looking at all your clutter like money sitting there collecting dust. Things that I thought I needed that I used in the past year I realized I really don’t need. And now they are gone and I have a fat envelope.

Remember this is about cleaning the clutter, not holding onto your stuff for dear life and listing it at 10 percent off what you paid for it in 1992. At best it’s worth 10 percent of what you paid for it. GET RID IF IT. A hundred dollar table,10 bucks.

Just be very alert to Craigslist scams. Never ship anything to a Craigslist buyer, never click links in an email from someone responding to your Craigslist ad, if they leave a phone number in the ad realize even if it’s a local number it could be a scam. If you dive into the process you’ll quickly see the scams.

Clean the clutter!

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

Sex Offender Checks Won’t Stop Assaults has begun screening for users whose names appear on public sex offender registries. As I told the E-Commerce Times, “Doing nothing is a poor option. Also, consider that not every sex offender is tech-savvy, and some will get banned.”

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. Things are no different today, except that there are now many more ways for bad guys to ensnare their victims.

Studies show online dating and matchmaking services are growing, even in a recession. Many single men and women are signing up and attending speed-dating sessions than ever before. There are a couple of reasons for the increase in online dating’s popularity. First, it is cheaper to join a service than to spend money on countless bad blind dates. Second, in turbulent times, people want the comfort of a romantic partner. Having a companion to share in the fear, uncertainty, and doubt can help people vent and find relief.

Protect yourself from online dating scams and risks.

1. Educate yourself about self-defense techniques and personal security. Watch instructional videos or take a course. The single most effective self-defense offering on the planet is a program called “Impact Model Mugging,” which you can find nearby with an online search. Taking this course is worthwhile, even if you have to drive 500 miles, and bring your children. In this case, knowledge certainly is power.

2. You’ve probably heard this advice before but it merits repeating. Drive yourself to meet your date in a public, populated location, and continue to do this for the first several dates. Get to know the energy of your potential mate, learn what makes them tick, before offering your trust. Be alert for unhealthy behaviors. If they are easily irritated or make offensive jokes, move on.

3. Do not drink alcohol when meeting someone from the Internet, even with a meal. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and leads us to accept inappropriate behavior. Don’t accept drinks from anyone unless you see the drink being poured and it goes straight to your hands. Slipping drugs in drinks happens every day.

4. Be direct about splitting the bill for dinner. While this may seem extreme to some, studies show that a large percentage of men still feel that after buying a woman dinner, she “owes” him sex.

5. Get information about your date. Ask all the questions: name, address, previous address, home phone number, cell phone, place of birth, birth date, workplace, license plate, and if you can squeeze it out of them, I kid you not, get their Social Security number.

6. Do your own sex offender checks. Do background checks, Use Google and Facebook. Vet your potential mate thoroughly, since determining who you might marry is about as important as any life decision can be.

Online dating services must also take on a certain level of responsibility for members’ personal security. One option is to take advantage of new technologies such as device reputation management, which identifies user devices and analyzes their history, allowing websites to ban users whose device history indicates that they pose a threat to other users.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses dating security on E! True Hollywood Story. (Disclosures)