Holiday Safety: Post Holiday Home Security

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Most people know the holidays are prime time for burglars to enter your home and steal from you while you are at a friend or family member’s party. They go after unwrapped and new high end items that they can re-sell or “fence” on the “black market”.  It’s pretty obvious who’s home and who is not at home when the lights are off and there is no car in the driveway.

All a burglar has to do is ring a door bell to see of you are actually home. If no one answers they then jiggle the door knob to see if it’s locked or not.  If it’s locked they will head to the back door and jiggle that. Many times they will walk right in because people are often irresponsible and leave the doors unlocked because they believe “it can’t happen to me”. If the doors are locked they may try a few street level or basement windows. Brazen burglars will not waste any time and may break glass or use a crowbar and forcibly enter the residence.

Trash day is coming and they may case a neighborhood looking for boxes where electronics such as computers, flat panel TVs, game consoles and other re-saleable items may be.

For holiday safety, use these holiday home security suggestions:

  1. Lock your doors and windows
  2. Install a monitored alarm system
  3. Give your home the lived in look
  4. Leave the TV on LOUD while you are gone
  5. Install timers on your lights both indoor and outdoor
  6. Close the shades to prevent peeping inside
  7. Use defensive signage
  8. Store item boxes for at least 90 days because if you have a defective product you will need the box for a return
  9. After 90 days tear up the box so it’s undistinguishable then recycle or put it in a black trash bag

See Robert discussing personal and home security on NBC Boston

Robert Siciliano is a personal security and identity theft expert for Home Security Source. (Disclosures)

Attempted Bombing of Airplane Highlights “Security Illusion”

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

The attempted bombing of a US airplane is alarming but no major surprise in a post 9/11 world. The terrorist had a device containing a high explosive attached to his body in both a liquid and powder form. The government says that as the flight neared Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Friday, Christmas Day, he set off the device, but it sparked a fire instead of an explosion.

The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule is 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure. However anyone who travels with any frequency will tell you that liquids and powders of all kinds are often mistakenly and sometime purposefully taken through security.

The Christmas’ days attempt reminds many of the case of Richard Reid, who was arrested after he tried to ignite an explosive device hidden in his shoe while on an American Airlines Paris-to-Miami flight in 2001. Security is one guy trying to use his shoes to blow up a plane and millions have to remove them every day as a result.

Helen Keller once said that “security is an illusion; life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I’ve always been fond of that quote but do not fully agree with it. “Security theater,” a relatively new term, consists of security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security.

It is important to understand that security is more than, but in part illusion and theater. The illusion, like a magic act, looks very real and in many cases believable. Theater, is the show that is put on to give the illusion impact. Both play a role in deterring a criminal but neither add up to 100% security, as 100% security is unattainable.

But imagine if there were no security checkpoints, no metal detectors, no cameras, no alarms, no restrictions on liquids, no pat downs, no removing of shoes. Imagine if the TSA and all citizens took the “throw your hands in the air and give up” approach and elected for convenience over security. Tragedy would have certainly come, and come much sooner.

Home security isn’t completely an illusion. It is elusive, but it is attainable. Home security requires persistence, due-diligence and an investment of time, energy and a little money. Criminals often seek the path of least resistance. They will continue to wiggle doorknobs until they find one unlocked. Home security is layers of protection. The more layers in place, the more difficult you make it for the bad guy to do his job.

  1. Form a neighborhood watch
  2. Call a locksmith
  3. Install alarm systems
  4. Install security cameras
  5. Install exterior lighting
  6. Apply stickers and signage alerting protective measures
  7. Give your home the lived in look
  8. Put a big dog bowl on your porch that says “Killer” creating an “illusion”

See Robert discussing terrorists in your back yard on CNN

Robert Siciliano is a personal security and identity theft expert for Home Security Source. (Disclosures)

Pope Attack Brings Security Home

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, holidays or not, security needs to be top of mind. On Christmas Eve the Pope was knocked to the ground in a terrifying security scare just hours before his traditional Christmas Day message. The perpetrator jumped over security barriers and dived on top of 82-year-old Benedict XVI, dragging him to the floor.

The woman, who is said to have a history of mental problems, was involved in a similar incident last Christmas Eve. Both incidents were captured on video surveillance highlighting the importance or recorded video. Each time the Pope’s security guards apprehended the offender, but this time a few seconds too late.

Some may remember back in 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot. Shortly after, the “Pope Mobile” became a required form of transportation for him that allowed the Pope to be viewed publicly.

Generally, when a security incident occurs the video footage is viewed and officials determine what should be done in the future to prevent such acts.

In my own view, it seems not much was done since last year to prevent this year’s assault on the Pope. It’s obvious to me that the limited 4 foot high fence/barrier between the Pope and his congregation isn’t sufficient to prevent another attack. I would bet you will see a 6-8 foot barrier next year, possibly made of a bullet proof plastic preventing a tragedy.

For your own safety, develop a personal security mindset. This means thinking proactively by asking “what if” questions and visualizing possibilities. By predicting and then preventing bad things from happening, you are actively involved in your personal security and that of your families.

See Robert discussing personal and home security on Fox Boston

Robert Siciliano is a personal security and identity theft expert for Home Security Source. (Disclosures)

*Content expressed in Home Security Source does not represent the thoughts and opinions of ADT Security Services, Inc. unless explicitly indicated.

Help Prevent Home Robberies

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Robbery as defined in Wikipedia is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft in its use of violence and intimidation.

In Lewisville, Texas the Star Local News Courier Gazzette reports a woman was just arriving home when she was confronted by a subject with a knife. He attacked her and stole her wallet. This victim also fought back and was able to take the suspect’s knife away from him, causing him to flee the location.

That’s a pretty awful situation, but one that the victim successfully survived and even made the attacker run. Many of us are told that when you are attacked to let it happen so it doesn’t get any worse. In some cases that may be your only option. Studies have also shown that fighting back is a better option. Showing resistance and making it difficult for your attacker to do their job often helps you get to safety.

The fact that she was attacked right at her home is disturbing. There are some things that can be done to reduce the chances that your home is targeted for robbery:
1. Make sure you have an acute awareness of your environment when you are getting out of your car and walking to your destination. If anything feels wrong seek safety immediately.
2. Install outdoor lighting that may keep the bad guy away.
3. Use your cell phone when in a less than secure situation so anyone paying unwanted attention sees help is close by.
4. Make sure your home has a lived in look so from outside your home may look like a tougher target, again, help is close by.
5. Install security cameras.
6. Have a panic button for your home alarm that calls for help and sends a screaming alarm.
7. Use your car alarms to draw attention.
8. Always run to safety when attacked. The worse thing you can do is nothing.

Robert Siciliano is a personal security and identity theft expert for Home Security Source. (Disclosures)

See Robert discussing personal and home security on Fox Boston

*Content expressed in Home Security Source does not represent the thoughts and opinions of ADT Security Services, Inc. unless explicitly indicated.

Preventing Card-Skimming Identity Theft

Identity Theft Expert Robert Siciliano

Skimming is one of the financial industry’s fastest-growing crimes, according to the U.S. Secret Service. The worldwide ATM Industry Association reports over $1 billion in annual global losses from credit card fraud and electronic crime associated with ATMs.

Skimming can occur in a few different ways. The most common is when a store clerk takes your card and runs it through a device that copies the information from the magnetic strip. Once the thief has the credit or debit card data, he or she can place orders over the phone or online. Thieves can also copy the data on blank cards, or “white” cards. White cards are effective at self checkouts, or when the thief knows the clerk and is able to “sweetheart” the transaction. A white card can also be pressed with foils to look like a legitimate credit card, as seen in this video.

The PCI Security Standards Council provides guidelines designed to help merchants securely store and transmit card account data and prevent it from falling into the hands of criminals. Retailers who fail to comply with PCI’s standards can be fined up to $500,000 by credit card providers such as Visa and MasterCard. PCI recently released a series of recommendations for the prevention of skimming scams. “Skimming is becoming a widespread problem. These are guidelines for what retailers should be looking at with their reader devices”, says Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI SSC. “We discuss different techniques for protecting those point-of-sale devices.”

The PCI Council’s “Skimming Prevention: Best Practices for Merchants” guidelines include a risk assessment questionnaire and self-evaluation forms to gauge susceptibility to these types of attacks and to determine where they need to shore up their defenses. The guidelines cover how to educate and protect employees who handle the point of sale devices from being targeted, as well as ways to prevent and deter compromise of those devices. They also detail how to identify a rigged reader and what to do about it, and how physical location of the devices and stores can raise risk.

Thieves can completely replace a merchant’s point of sale terminal with a device that is rigged to record or divert card data wirelessly, or simply store the data until the criminal comes back and removes it. (This is what happened to Stop and Shop.)

Criminals can also place a device on the face of an ATM, which appears to be a part of the machine.  It’s almost impossible for civilians to know the difference unless they have an eye for security, or the skimmer is of poor quality. Often, the thieves will hide a small pinhole camera in a brochure holder near the ATM, in order to extract the victim’s pin number. Gas pumps are equally vulnerable to this type of scam.

A customer at a New York City bank discovered a skimming device on the face of an ATM, and went inside the bank to inform the branch manager. The manager, who had never seen an ATM skimmer and wasn’t sure what to do, took the skimmer and thanked him. The customer then remembered, from numerous reports about ATM skimming, that there is usually a second part to the ATM skimmer, the camera. In this case, he found it behind a small mirror that alerts the ATM user to beware of “shoulder surfers.” He brought the camera to the bank manager, who replied by saying, “Maybe we should shut that machine down, huh?” The bank manager contacted bank security, shut down the machine, and alerted other area banks.

To help combat this type of crime, ADT unveiled the ADT Anti-Skim ATM Security Solution, which helps prevent skimming attempts and detects skimming devices on all major ATM makes and models. ADT’s anti-skim solution is installed inside an ATM near the card reader, making it invisible from the outside. The solution detects the presence of foreign devices placed over or near an ATM card entry slot, without disrupting the customer transaction or operation of most ATMs. It can trigger a silent alarm for command center response and coordinate video surveillance of all skimming activities. Also, the technology helps prevent card-skimming attempts by interrupting the operation of an illegal card reader. This technology does not require any software adjustments be made to the ATM itself, and does not connect to or affect the ATM communications network. Prior to its North American introduction, the ADT Anti-Skim ATM Security Solution was successfully field tested on dozens of ATMs of four major U.S. financial institutions in controlled pilot programs. Testing pilots yielded positive results, with no known skimming compromises occurring.

You can protect yourself from these types of scams by paying attention to your statements and refuting any unauthorized transactions within 60 days. When using an ATM, pay close attention to details, and look for anything that seems out of place. If your card gets stuck in the machine or you notice anything odd about the appearance of the machine, such as wires, double sided tape, error messages, a missing security camera, or if the machine seems unusually old and run down, don’t use it. Don’t use just any ATM. Instead, look for ATMs in more secure locations. Use strong PINs, with both upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers. And invest in Intelius identity theft protection. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert, discusses ATM skimming on Fox News.

Homeowner Jailed While the Burglar He Attacked Walks Free

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

There are few scenarios as disturbing as one’s home being burglarized or invaded. The thought of having an uninvited person enter your property while you are home or not, and then taking your stuff, holding you or your family hostage or committing violent acts is an unthinkable event most people are unprepared for.

A “home invasion”, is the crime of entering a private and occupied dwelling, with the intent of committing a crime, often while threatening the resident of the dwelling. It is not a legally defined offense (federally) in the United States. One would think that when a horrendous crime like this occurs that the intended victim can and should do whatever is possible to defend themselves.

In this disturbing article in the UK, a homeowner fought back and attacked his attacker, freed his family and got 30 months in jail.  This is a USA problem too and unfortunately, is not a new problem. In a court of law, people have been claiming “self defense” since the beginning of time. However, in a litigious society such as ours that defense is often abused which has required the courts to look very close at each incident. Unfortunately, justice isn’t always served and common sense goes out the window.

State to state courts have come to different conclusions as to what a homeowner can and cannot do when defending themselves from a home invasion. It is important to read up and do your homework to determine what your options are and what the laws in your state are.

To prevent a home invasion:

  1. Always lock your doors, even while you are at home
  2. Never open your doors to a stranger no matter who they say they are
  3. Install an alarm system and keep it on during the day while you are home
  1. Install security cameras that record motion 24 hours a day. This would help in court.

See Robert discussing home invasions on the Montel Williams Show

Robert Siciliano is a personal security and identity theft expert for Home Security Source. (Disclosures)