5 ways your identity is stolen

Chances are good that in the coming year, you will be asked to provide your or a family member’s Social Security number (SSN) at least a few times. And because of all you’ve heard about identity theft and all the advice like “never give out your Social,” you will hesitate, ask why the person needs it and be told, “I don’t know why we need it, but I can’t move forward with your application/registration unless you provide it.” So what do you do? Your kid is sick, he needs meds, and the doctor’s admin can’t help you unless you cough up a SSN. If you want service, then you have to give it up. Otherwise, you have to figure out other options, which often means putting your tail between your legs and giving up your SSN.

2CHere are all kinds of fun ways your identity can get stolen.

  1. Giving out your SSN: Schools want it, the doctor’s or dentist’s office asks for it, your insurance company needs it, and maybe even your kids soccer coach wants it. What happens when the clerk you gave your SSN to develops herself a little crack cocaine habit? She sees an opportunity to feed her habit and then uses your kid’s SSN to open a new credit card account. Nice.
  2. Hacker data breach: Criminal hackers looking for your SSN are looking at your doctor, your school and even your bank. Once they find a vulnerability in those networks, they might sell your SSN on the black market for thieves to open new mobile phone accounts in your name.
  3. Insider identity theft: Employees with access to company databases have been known to download thousands and even millions of records onto a single thumb drive. Once accessed, the opening of new accounts begins.
  4. Tax fraud: Taxpayers usually receive everything they need from their employers by the beginning of February. Sometimes those records contain your SSN, and they may be intercepted in the mail; other times, they might be accessed via your trash or even in your home. Once in the hands of a thief, the bad guy files your taxes before you do and gets your refund. File early to beat the thieves.
  5. Account takeover: Your bank account and various other existing accounts require your SSN as a primary identifier to establish credit. The last four digits of your SSN are also used as an authenticator when you call to make changes or get a new card issued. Bad guys get your SSN and socially engineer customer service to drain your accounts.

In most cases, identity theft protection and a credit freeze will insulate you from the first three instances, in which new accounts are opened in your name. To avoid tax fraud, file early. In the event of an account takeover, simply pay close attention to your accounts and refute unauthorized transactions ASAP.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

School WiFi Often Open and Insecure


Many elementary, middle and high schools are offering WiFi, and of course colleges and universities provide it as well. Some provide the networks with a required login access, and for others it’s open, unencrypted and free for anyone to jump on.

Traditionally, when we think “login,” we believe that also means encrypted and secure. However, logging in with a user name and password doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a secure network. Traffic on many networks requiring a login is unencrypted, which means anyone who connects to the network with the right “sniffing” tools can see others’ information.

When connecting to a network that requires a login credential, the easiest way to tell if that network has encryption is to pull up the list of wireless networks from your control panel and simply hover over each with your mouse (or right click) to show its properties. Any network labeled WPA or WP2 has encryption. If it’s labeled WEP, it also has encryption, but at a substandard level that is hackable.

Want to be safe? Use a private VPN! Logging into public WiFi without any encryption puts all your information at risk. Install a wireless VPN such as Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield VPN is a great option that protects your entire web surfing session, securing your connection on both your home internet network and on public internet networks (both wired and wireless). Hotspot Shield’s internet security solution protects your identity by ensuring that all web transactions (shopping, filling out forms, downloads, etc.) are secured through HTTPS—the protected internet protocol.

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. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.

I Really Want My Phone to Be My Wallet. Don’t You?

Wallets suck. Seriously. Mine hurts my butt when I sit down. I have to remember to take it with me, and then I’m always afraid of losing it. There’s nothing fun about it. And…well…it’s dirty. It really is—money is dirty, and the cards you hand to people with dirty hands that handle dirty cards all day are dirty. Can we please just use our mobiles as wallets?

There are a few technologies that are supposed to eliminate the wallet, but no matter how hard I try, I still need to carry one. More on that in a bit.

What’s in the works:

  • Isis is a mobile payment network comprised of the major mobile networks. It’s supposed to launch nationwide and there have been a bunch of pilot tests, but no official launch just yet.
  • Square is an app that accepts credit cards and allows you to pay with them in stores that accept Square-facilitated transactions.
  • Apple has the Passbook app, which stores your cards and works with an iPhone. It should have taken off, but it does squat.
  • Google Wallet is an app that has relationships with credit card companies and banks and uses near-field communications. It allows you to make payments, but only if you have an NFC-enabled phone—which is usually an Android—and the point of sale needs to be able to read it.
  • Starbucks is really the only company that has used its mobile app to accept payments, and it’s wildly successful. There’s no reason to even walk into a Starbucks with a wallet again.

So other than moving into Starbucks, I’ve found a temporary compromise.

  • Thinned out my wallet: This means I got a thinner wallet, too. I picked up a three-buck one from one of those sidewalk tables in New York City. For the rest of the world, you can find them all over eBay.
  • Keyring: This is an app available for iPhones and Androids that allows me to easily snap a photo of the front and back of my 50+ loyalty cards and use most of them at a retail counter. (Except Costco, which is stupid. Do you hear me, Costco?)
  • Hotspot Shield VPN: This is a virtual private network application installed on my mobile to protect my wireless traffic. So instead of having to remember my wallet and then putting my wallet into my pocket—which hurts—and worrying about losing it, I just use my mobile to make purchases online and have most everything shipped. Except, of course, at Costco.

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. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.

Are You as Secure as a Fourth Grader? (Hint: No)

Security is the big picture. Security is in the finest details. Security is software and hardware. Security is awareness, intelligence and vigilance. Security is obvious, is obscure and is theater. Security is a journey and not a destination. It’s a path you take, but not a place you ever really arrive at. Security is an illusion; it’s elusive, attainable and impossible.

Ever have dialogue with a nine-year-old? Kids that age are pretty smart. Most can navigate through life with enough awareness to get themselves in and out of trouble and have the understanding of how things work like a 30-year-old might. They also possess a certain innocence and lack the fear of failure or of retribution due to the fact they’ve yet to be burned as much as a typical 30-year-old has.

It’s that carefree outlook and lack of concern with authority that allows mastermind criminals to walk all over those of us who follow the rules—and those who enforce them.

Which brings us to a nine-year-old Minneapolis boy who was able to get through security screening and onto a Vegas-bound plane at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport without a ticket. The only reason he was even caught was because he was…well…a boy. His Delta flight was not full, and the flight crew became suspicious mid-flight because the boy was not on the list of unattended minors. The crew contacted Las Vegas police, who met them upon landing and transferred the boy to child protection services.

That’s not all. Our stowaway rode on the train to the airport (probably snuck on there too), stole a bag from a luggage carousel, and went to an airport restaurant, where he chewed and screwed (dined and dashed) the restaurant out of their money.

I’m not done telling his story. Two weeks prior to the airport incident, he snuck into a water park, stole a truck, smashed it, and was caught driving on a highway and pulled over. And that’s just what was reported when he was caught.

So if you think your government, the TSA, Homeland Security or the police can protect your personal security—or your bank, your credit card company or all the organizations that have your information on file can protect your identity—then you’re no smarter than a fourth grader.

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. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.

4 Ways to Share Paid Hotspots

There are a number of scenarios you might be in where friends, family and colleagues need to jump on a (read: your) wireless connection, but they’d rather not pay a connection fee. So if you have the goods right in front of you and they can connect for free, they may buy you a cookie. Here’s how to be a good pal and earn their gratitude and occasional baked goods:

  1. MiFi ($50-$170 for the device and $50 monthly): There are a number of devices, data cards or USB plugins available through the major phone carriers that offer fast mobile internet speeds for up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices, including laptops, tablets, e-readers or music players. Many are powered by your laptop, while others stay charged up to 12 hours before recharging.
  2. Mobile phone tethering (free to $60 monthly): Tethering is when you use your phone as a hotspot. While iPhones, BlackBerrys, Windows Phones and Androids all offer tethering, not all phones support it. Still, most carriers offer tethering on most of their smartphones; some phones offer tethering through an application, while others go through the phone’s settings. Search out the term “tethering” and the name of your phone to determine your options.
  3. Pocket router ($30): At about the size of your thumb, the Asus WL-330NUL is the world’s smallest pocket router. Whenever you’re traveling or simply at a cafe, getting online becomes so easy as all your devices can use this USB-stick-sized router. Whether only WiFi or wired LAN is available, the pocket router creates your own private network and allows speedy cross-device communication, making it extra useful in staying connected anywhere.
  4. Virtual hotspot with your laptop (free to $30): There are two programs that work very well: Thinix WiFi Hotspot and Connectify. Connectify Hotspot lets you share your computer’s internet connection with other devices over WiFi. As long as your computer is online, your other nearby devices—and those of your friends and colleagues—will be, too.

Each of these connectivity options should contain a degree of encryption on its own. However, a virtual private network, such as Hotspot Shield VPN, is a free option that can encrypt all your wireless communications.

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. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247.