Barefoot Burglar Gets His Final Sentence

You may recall the story about Colton Harris-Moore, who as a teenager was busted for committing over 100 burglaries in the Pacific Northwest. He stole cars, speedboats and airplanes and is known as the “Barefoot Burglar” because he kicked off his shoes running through the woods from the police.

After two years of running, Harris-Moore was busted in a chase that involved police, boats and bullets. Most of these stories usually end up with the perpetrator being dead. But this now-20-year-old will live to tell another tale—from prison. Last summer, he signed a movie deal to make $1.3 million with 20th Century Fox. However, he won’t earn any money from this, as all the funds will go to restitution.

Fox News reports, “The young man known as the ‘Barefoot Bandit’ pleaded guilty to burglary Wednesday in a Washington County court, perhaps closing the lengthy saga involving a run from the law in stolen cars, boats and airplanes. Judge Rickert acknowledged Harris-Moore’s difficult childhood and lack of parental support that led him to start breaking into cabins and stores as a teenager and that ended with dozens of felony convictions.

“’This is the high cost of low living,’ the judge said. ‘If you can fly an airplane by a manual,’ the judge said, ‘I guess you can pass a GED in three weeks.’ Browne said it wouldn’t be the last chapter in the Harris-Moore story, ‘because you’re going to hear a lot more from Colton, but in positive ways.’”

There is only one Barefoot Burglar, but there are thousands of others breaking into the business every day.

  • Lock your doors and windows.
  • Install a monitored alarm system.
  • 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.
  • Use defensive signage.

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

Who the Heck is This Credit Card Charge From?

If you travel as much as I do and use your credit card for every purchase from apples to zebras, you know it’s rare to recognize the name of a merchant listed on your credit card statement. For example, you may go to a restaurant by the name of Dave’s Bar and Grill and get a charge on your card a day later from Smith Enterprises—and you know you didn’t buy anything from a Mr. Smith.

So the way this works is, the bar was set up by Dave Smith’s parent company, Smith Enterprises, which owns a bunch of restaurants. When establishing merchant status, which is the ability to accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express, Dave filled out the parent company’s name, Smith Enterprises, in the merchant status application because the bar and grill is only a DBA (“doing business as”). This, of course, causes lots of problems.

The New York Times reports, “Every time someone initiates a dispute, the bank that issued the card must look into it. Someone has to contact the merchant and wait for a reply that may include a receipt or other documentation.

“Merchants must carve out time to respond to each dispute. They also pay one-time fees for the privilege and may end up paying higher overall fees to accept cards if disputes are too frequent. Or they just get cut off from accepting cards altogether.

“The true cost per dispute to the banks of all of this back and forth ranges from $10 to $40, according to a 2010 estimate by the consultants at First Annapolis.”

And you say, “Anyway,how is that my problem?” Because you still have a confusing statement and don’t know if your card was fraudulently charged or the merchant is making you work hard to determine what you bought. This costs you time and energy.

There are generally three things you can do to figure this out:

  • Google the name of the company that charged you. Chances are, many others have the same issue and the answer to your question is right there.
  • Call your credit card company and see if it has any inside info. If not, you may need to start a dispute.
  • Sign up for BillGuard. It’s free and has a system that allows you to see what banks and credit card companies might not. You can search the name of any mystery merchants here to find out who the heck they are.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security expert & advisor to BillGuard and is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

What is a mobile wallet?

Some say there will be a day when the wallet you carry in your pocket or purse will become obsolete. Technology is evolving in a way that will likely eliminate all our credit cards, store cards, and IDs. We will use our mobile devices as our primary means of commerce and identification. The technology behind mobile wallet combines near field communications (NFC) and applications. Depending on which is used, a user might need to wave their phone near a reader to make a payment or verify identification, or they may open an app and simply click a button.

Mobile wallet is still in its infancy but the technology is quickly gaining steam. Google introduced Google Wallet, a mobile app that turns your Android phone into a wallet by securely storing your credit cards on your phone, and it has gained popularity by using promotional offers. When you make a purchase from a brick-and-mortar store that accepts Google Wallet, you not only pay but you can also redeem discount and promotional offers quickly by simply tapping your phone at the point of sale.

Google Wallet facilitates online shopping by securely storing your credit cards for use on the Internet as well. Paying is quick, easy, and safe when you make a purchase from an online merchant that accepts Google Wallet. If you choose to make your phone a wallet, I seriously suggest a mobile security product as a companion to help protect your device against viruses and malware.

Protect it. Just like your leather wallet, your mobile wallet is portable, it is subject to being lost or stolen and the data contained can be accessed or the applications running may have access to additional information, resulting in your data being compromised. Any time you are using a mobile wallet remember that wireless is inherently insecure. Use a secure virtual private network (VPN) such as the free Hotspot Shield VPN that protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning AmericaDisclosures.

Florida Retirees Frequent Identity Theft Targets

A lot of Floridians are retirees who spend their days around the pool or at the beach. The warmer weather attacks both golden agers and unfortunately identity thieves. Criminals know that retirees have money in the bank, retirement accounts and credit cards with high limits.

TechNewsDaily reports, “On a per capita basis, 361 Floridians out of every 100,000 were the victims of identity fraud in 2012, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s latest figures. Georgia ranked second, with 194 reports per 100,000, and California ranked No. 3 at 123 per 100,000—a third the rate of victims in Florida.”

Two types of identity theft often affect retirees: new account fraud and account takeover.

New account fraud refers to financial identity theft in which the victim’s personal identifying information, often a Social Security number and good credit standing, is used to create new accounts, which are then used to obtain products and services. Stolen Social Security numbers are often used to commit new account fraud.

Since the thief typically submits a different mailing address when applying for new accounts, the victim never receives the bills and may remain unaware of their existence until creditors come seeking payment for debts the thief has accumulated in the victim’s name.

Account takeover is discovered when victims notice suspicious charges on a credit card statement, or the credit card company may notice charges that seem unusual in the context of the victim’s established spending habits. 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.

Protecting yourself from new account fraud requires more effort than account takeover. You can attempt to protect your own identity by getting yourself a credit freeze or setting up your own fraud alerts. There are pros and cons to each.

One cool company that’s watching your back is iovation. iovation spots cyber criminals by analyzing the device reputation of the computers they use to connect to a website. They investigate for suspicious history and check for characteristics consistent with fraudulent users. And the best part is that iovation can prevent a criminal from using stolen data to open a new account in the first place—saving your nest egg for your golden years.


Fight or Flight: What Would You Do?

First, I’m a big believer in running away from a predator. If some whack job breaks into your home and wants to hurt you, RUN out the nearest door. But if you are backed into a corner or a loved one needs protecting, then you may have to fight.

Mom and Dad teach us not to hurt others. As children, we are taught kindness and manners. This is called civilized conditioning. Civilized conditioning is what allows us to inhabit a civilized society without having to worry every second about violence. .

But, as you know, violence is an everyday occurrence somewhere. The fact is, there are plenty of people out there who are uncivilized and capable of doing awful things to others.

Civilized conditioning is a double-edged sword. The good part is, it prevents us from being violent toward others for no reason. The bad part is, it prevents us from being physical with another person in the event we do need to protect ourselves. Civilized conditioning is known to contribute to making a person freeze up, stop breathing and panic when someone attacks.

What would you do if confronted by a bad guy? How would you respond? Freeze up? Run? Fight?

As a parent, if someone were to walk up to your child and put his hands on her, without hesitation you would respond with a vengeance—because the parental instinct to defend one’s child never goes away. So you do have it in you; your job is to access those instincts when it comes to saving your own life.

Tools to overcome civilized conditioning when necessary:

  • Realize that no one has a right to hurt or harm you at any time or for any reason.
  • Know that fighting back and offering resistance is the most effective way to remove yourself from a dangerous situation.
  • Ask “What if” questions like, “What if, as I rounded this corner, there was someone there to attack me?” to prepare your mind and body to respond in the event of danger.
  • Use visualization to see potential scenarios in your mind and act out in your head how you would respond.
  • Take as many self-defense classes as you can afford. Self-defense is a life-enhancing experience that gives you an enormous amount of perspective.
  • Develop an acute awareness of your environment (also known as situational awareness), no matter where you are or what you are doing. If something feels wrong, something IS wrong.
  • When attacked, always run to safety, such as to inside a store, someone’s home or any populated place. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
  • Incorporate technology like home alarm systems to give yourself an edge over predators.

Robert Siciliano, personal and home security specialist to, discussing burglar-proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Weak Passwords Can Cost You Everything

If your computer or mobile was hacked or your passwords were cracked and your data was lost or if all the websites you have an account with were hacked and all that information was the hands of a criminal, how devastated will you be?

In McAfee’s study on the value of digital assets, consumers estimated the total value of all their digital assets on multiple devices at an average of $35,000. Digital assets include: music downloads, videos, photos, apps, emails, text messages, health/financial/insurance records, resumes/CVs, portfolios, contacts, recipes, etc.

Nowadays, if you’re shopping, banking or using social media sites online, you need a user name and password. If you’re like most people, you probably take the easy way out and use the same user name and password for every new site you access.

The challenge is that some sites let you use numbers and symbols in your password and some don’t, or the user name you want may be taken. And an even bigger problem is with all those valuable assets we store on our devices, you are leaving yourself open to exposure by using the same password everywhere—if one account ends up getting hacked, all your accounts could be hacked.

Did you know that?

Over 60% of us have 3+ digital devices

55% of us store digital assets on these devices that would be impossible to recreate, re-download or re-purchase

Over 75% of us visit 5 or more sites regularly that require passwords

63% of us use easy to remember passwords or use the same password for most sites

17% of us do little to nothing to protect our passwords

You need a better plan

Make sure you use different passwords for each of your accounts

Always log off if you leave your device and anyone is around and don’t use the “remember me” function on your browser or mobile apps

Avoid entering passwords on computers you don’t control (like computers at an Internet café or library) or when using unsecured Wi-Fi connections (like at the airport or a coffee shop)

Don’t tell anyone your password—your trusted friend now might not be your friend in the future

Depending on the sensitivity of the information being protected, you should change your passwords periodically, and avoid reusing a password for at least one year.

Use comprehensive security software on ALL your devices (not just your PC!), like McAfee®LiveSafe, that comes with a password manager that securely stores your usernames and passwords to your favorite sites, and logs in for you—with just one click

Here’s some tips on how to create a strong password. Remember, your password is often your first line of defense—protect yourself!

And don’t forget to play The $35,000 Question game on Facebook for a chance to win some prizes, while learning about protecting your digital assets!

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Digital Security Improves Our Lives

Our lives depend on the convenience of digital and require the security behind the scenes. Take contactless payment for example. Contactless payments are a faster, more convenient alternative to cash when making small purchases at fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and transport terminals. They are also ideal for remote or unattended payment situations, such as vending machines, road tolls, or parking meters.

These transactions are protected by multiple layers of security, which protect both retailers and consumers.

Some of these security features are incorporated within a card’s microprocessor chip, while others are part of the same networks that protect traditional credit and debit card transactions.

Think about how much more “digital” our lives have become. Digital assets include: entertainment files (e.g., music downloads), personal memories (e.g., photographs), personal communications (e.g., emails), personal records (e.g., health, financial, insurance) and career information (e.g., resumes, portfolios, cover letters, contacts), as well as any creative projects or hobbies involving digital files.

Every bit of this adds up to “more and better.” By this, I offer an example. I have a seven-year-old daughter who has evolved into a smarter, more well-rounded and aware child than I ever was. And, with the comfort of digital security, the technology that we expose her to makes much of that possible.

And this exposure is ubiquitous. While many people protect their PCs and digital assets from malware by installing antivirus software, they leave the doors open to criminals when it comes to smartphones, tablets and Macs, however. Bad guys are now targeting these devices, as their users’ complacency has made breaking into these devices the path of least resistance. Now more than ever, a multi-device security strategy is necessary.

But don’t fret. Enjoy your technology, be smart about it and make sure to exercise your security muscles.

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures

How do I shop with my mobile securely?

To stay safe while mobile shopping:

Go big. Do your online business with major retailers, or those you already know, like, and trust. The chances of a major online retailer stiffing you, or of their database being compromised, are slimmer than those of an unknown.

Do your homework. If you search for a particular product and wind up at an unfamiliar website, do some research on the retailer before putting down your credit card number. Search for the company’s name and web address to see if there have been complaints.

Don’t give out more personal data than necessary. Many retailers require your name, address, phone number, and credit card information. This is normal. But if you are asked for anything beyond that, like bank account numbers or your Social Security number, run hard and fast.

Vary your passwords. Often, online retailers will ask you to register with their website when you make your first purchase. Never register using the same password you’ve already used for another website. Otherwise, if one website is hacked, your password could be used to infiltrate your other accounts.

Use HTTPS sites. Websites that have a secure checkout process—with “https://” in the web address (as opposed to “http://”)—are safer because they encrypt the transaction against interception by thieves.

Keep mobile security software current. The latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.

Automate software updates. Many software programs can update automatically to defend against known risks. If this is an available option, be sure to turn it on.

Use a free VPN for Wi-Fi security like Hotspot Shield. Itcreates a virtual private network (VPN) between your laptop or iPhone and our Internet gateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers and ISPs from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures

Identity Theft Rings Focus On Loans and Credit Cards

Identity theft rings are in every state, victimizing approximately 10 million people a year.

In Wycoff NJ, 11 men and women were arrested on charges of stealing identities to open credit cards in an alleged scheme that is believed to have defrauded more than 70 victims.

Patch reports: “Credit cards were opened in the victims’ names, and charges were made on their behalf by “authorized buyers.” The task force investigation found that most of the victims had recently refinanced or applied through.”

In Tyler TX 45 people were victimized in a loan in an identity theft scam using loan fraud. KLTV reports “They had obtained information on citizens, names, date of  birth, social security numbers and so on. Enough so that when they went online to these loan companies then they took out a loan in someone else’s name. Then, they went to a bank and opened an account in their true name and had that money wired to their account.”

Consumers must:

  • Protect themselves from account takeover by monitoring their accounts closely, protect their passwords, and refute unauthorized charges.
  • Protect themselves from new account fraud by locking down their credit with a credit freeze or identity theft prevention services.
  • Protect their devices with antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and a firewall.

Identity theft will continue to plague citizens until smart systems are put in place to mitigate new account fraud and account takeover. Businesses are engaging an emerging device identification technology by Oregon-based iovation Inc. that spots cybercriminals by analyzing the reputation of computers and mobile devices used to connect to online businesses. They proactively investigate for suspicious activity and check for characteristics consistent with fraudulent users.

In one major case, iovation helped bust a fraud ring that victimized over 15 people where tens of thousands of fraudulent charges were racked up. The case started when a report of $5,000 in fraudulent credit card charges at a large electronics store and two department stores was reported. It just so happens that the credit issuer was using iovation to flag fraudulent credit card applications and tracking that back to the specific computers and mobile devices used. This information, combined with surveillance photos and other offline detective work, provided the perfect blend of digital and physical data that law enforcement needed to bust the crime ring.

What Does it Mean to Have a Connected Home?

The internet-connected TV, PC, mobile and tablet are all connected to the home in ways like never before. All of these appliances are talking to one another in various ways. For example, many of us share media, display photos on various devices, or use different devices remotely for home security, HVAC control, access control, and on/off administration of various devices.

My own home is connected in various ways. Using my iPhone or any computer, I can access a cloud-based server that allows me to watch live footage from each of the 16 cameras I have installed in and around my property. The cameras also begin recording automatically whenever motion is detected, and that footage is stored in the cloud and available to me anywhere, anytime. It’s amazing how often I access these cameras when I’m on the road.

With home automation, I can use the cloud to remotely switch lights on and off and adjust the temperature control system. I also get alerts in the event of an intrusion or even a broken water pipe!

Another great example is the “Nest” thermostat and corresponding app. Control your home’s temperature from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with the Nest Mobile app. Last-minute trip? Change the temperature from the ski slopes. Coming home early to a cold house? Turn up the heat on your way. The Nest Mobile app allows you to adjust your Nest Learning Thermostat from anywhere. Having a cloud-based, internet-connected home certainly provides an excellent layer of comfort, not to mention peace of mind.

Robert Siciliano, is a personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto and author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! . Disclosures