Scammers Use Online Calendars to Phish Victims

You’ve been here before: You’re at work, you get a notification via a popup, then an email, then a text reminding you of an appointment on your calendar. For most busy professionals, this is pretty normal because you know you need multiple points of contact to remind you of your schedule so you don’t look like a fool and miss an appointment. Online calendars rock, and they beat the heck out of paper calendars.

But this particular appointment that just popped is unfamiliar, you don’t recall making it, and you wonder if maybe it’s a mistake or you had too many Scotches last night. It shows up in your calendar like this:

When: Sat Sep 28, 2013 11am – 12pm Eastern Time

Calendar For Robert Siciliano

Dear Robert,

Writing with humanitarian heart, my name is Mrs. Rita Kennedy, and I was married to Mr. Kennedy director of MWB Industries Cote d’Ivoire. We were married for years with only one child, who was 11 years old, our only daughter Grace. My husband died after a Cardiac Arteries Operation and left both me and little Grace.

Recently when I went for medical examination my doctor told me that I might not last for the next Eight months due to my cancer at this advanced stage (cancer of the liver and partial stroke). Before my husband died last year, there is this sum of ($6.4 Million US Dollars) that my late husband deposited with a Bank here In Ivory Coast. Presently this fund is still in the Vault of the Bank.

Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to any good God fearing brother or sister that will utilize this money the way I am going to instruct herein. Going by my health unstable state, I am only worried about little daughter Grace and what will her life be if I die, this is why I am looking for any God fearing whom I will entrust both Grace and the money and secure her future. I prayed for one who will use this money according to the desire of my late husband to make sure that Grace is given the best and is being looked after the way we would have done for her if we were alive.

I want you to always remember me in your daily prayers because of my up coming surgery, and please after reading this letter, indicate on what you could do to help.

Hoping to read from you ASAP
Mrs. Rita Kennedy

SOOOOOOOOOOO…. Now while this particular calendar appointment is an obvious Nigerian 419 scam, not all are this obvious. So beware.

The goal here is for the victim to respond, engage with and ultimately pull money out of one’s pocket in an “advanced fee” scam. But really, all you need to do is ignore and delete.

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

Data brokers hacked and used for identity theft

Did you know you can buy Social Security numbers (SSNs) online? It’s legal to do so in most cases, and pretty much anyone who has an internet connection can make a purchase. Information brokers or data brokers, as they are known, sell this information in the form of background checks. In some instances, the SSN needs to be provided to get the background check; in other instances, the SSN is available as part of an information package. There are plenty of legitimate reasons one would have to procure this information.

Recently, researchers discovered a few of the major data brokers had been breached in a way that allowed criminal hackers to install malware that allowed them through the back door of the data brokers’ servers. As a result, these same hackers set up their own website reselling the hacked data. The customers of the hacked data, it seems, are identity thieves—many of them organized criminals using the data for various scams and to open new lines of credit or take over existing lines of credit.

CNET reports, “The service’s customers have, the report said, ‘spent hundreds of thousands of dollars looking up SSNs, birthdays, driver’s license records, and obtaining unauthorized credit and background reports on more than four million Americans.’”

This goes to show you that some of the largest companies on the planet that spend the most amount of money on security and have the most to lose are hackable…which means you and I are even softer targets, and our identities are at risk everywhere.

You can’t rely on your government or corporations to protect your identity. It is essential you take proactive action and do it yourself. There are two approaches that work best when done together. I do both; you should too:

  1. Get a credit freeze. Search “credit freeze,” then individually visit each credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and follow their process for a credit freeze.
  2. Invest in identity theft protection. It’s not enough just to get a credit freeze. There are many times when your credit won’t be frozen, and when your data is used to either open new accounts or take over existing accounts—and depending on the identity theft protection service, you will be assisted to mitigate any fraud.

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

Identity Thieves Go After the Deceased

There are a reported 2.5 million cases of identity theft among the deceased every year. Theft of deceased people’s identity happens partly because of the availability of public records coupled with the time it takes for credit bureaus, the Social Security Administration, financial institutions and others to process a deceased person’s Social Security number (SSN) in their systems and close all current and future lines of credit.

Many states’ vital statistics registries include Social Security numbers in their records and on their certified death certificates. Because these records are public, anyone can obtain a death certificate with a Social Security number. Criminals also seek out a recently deceased person’s information upon learning of his or her death via hospitals, funeral homes and obituaries. In some cases, the thief may have direct access to the person’s information from the inside, and in other cases the scammer contacts a relative posing as any of the above or a government agency.

The three credit bureaus maintain a list of the deceased based on data from the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File Index. Sometimes it takes months for bureaus to update their databases with the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File Index.

Relatives who learn of identity theft are not responsible for any fraud that occurs. However, they may find themselves spending lots of time explaining away the fact that the person is deceased—and death doesn’t always stop collection agencies from trying to get a loved one’s money, either.

Here’s how to avoid that information from falling between the cracks.

  • Report the death yourself by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
  • Contact the credit bureaus directly to report a death and request the information to be recorded immediately.
  • Right now, before anyone perishes, get the person a credit freeze. Upon death (as in life), the person’s Social Security number will be useless to the thief.
  • Invest in identity theft protection. This is a layer of security that monitors one’s information, including Social Security number, in the wild. Have it activated for six months to a year after death.
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center suggests, “Immediately notify credit card companies, banks, stockbrokers, loan/lien holders and mortgage companies of the death. The executor or surviving spouse will need to discuss all outstanding debts. If you close the account, ask them to list it as: ‘Closed. Account holder is deceased.’ If there is a surviving spouse or other joint account holder, make sure to notify the company the account needs to be listed in that surviving person’s name alone. They may require a copy of the death certificate to do this, as well as permission from the survivor.”

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

What is Business or Commercial Identity Theft?

Business or commercial identity theft happens when thieves use an existing business’ name to get credit, or they may bill a business’ clients for products and services. Sometimes the Social Security number of a company’s officer or another representative is required to commit business identity theft.

A big problem is that identifiers, such as federal IDs or employer identification numbers, are readily available in public records, dumpsters, or internally at banks and other creditors—which makes the ease of access to these numerical identifiers a catalyst for business identity theft. Business identity theft perpetrators are often former employees or current employees with direct access to the books and other forms of financial documentation. These schemers have ample opportunity to pad the books in favor of fraud.

Business identity theft victims don’t usually find out about the crime until big-time losses accumulate, or an audit occurs and someone discovers discrepancies on the books. Because of the hidden nature of the transactions, businesses can lose vast amounts of money. Business identity theft can remain undetected for years.

How can you protect yourself from business or commercial identity theft?

  • Inside job: Business identity theft, or commercial identity theft, is an inside job. Employees often have access to documents that include owners’ and board members’ Social Security numbers, as well as the business’ tax ID number.
  • Need-to-know basis: This information must only be accessed on a need-to-know basis by employees with proper credentialing. Even then, be suspect. It is imperative that this information stays secure.
  • Checks and balances: Organizations should put a check-and-balance system into place, ensuring that for every employee who has access to company accounts, there are two employees—preferably upper management—who are assigned to make sure the books are balanced, that no money is missing, and that financial statements are double-checked for inaccuracies.
  • Forensic accountants on retainer: In some instances, it is necessary to contract with forensic accountants or examiners to pay close attention to a business’ books and work to put monitoring systems in place.
  • Identity theft protection: Identity theft protection can be a helpful tool to keep officers or owners informed of potential illicit activities, because a Social Security number is often required to open accounts under a business’ name.

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

What is Synthetic Identity Theft?

Identity theft is first and foremost a problem because we rely on numerical identifiers that attach humans to credit and a variety of services. Once a criminal gets hold of those identifiers, he can simply be you. But when that thief takes on those numerical identifiers and attaches another name or date of birth, he confuses the already broken system further and creates what is called synthetic identity theft.

Synthetic identity theft happens when a person’s identity is partially or entirely fabricated in some way. What defines it as synthetic is when a criminal uses a real Social Security number with another person’s (or fake person, i.e. synthetic) and combines it with a name and date of birth that’s not associated with the number via the credit bureaus or anywhere else. This is a hard type of fraud to discover because the fraud rarely appears on the victim’s credit report or on the perpetrator’s credit report because it’s a fake person. With synthetic identity theft, the criminal often succeeds in creating a new credit file—or, in some cases, a subfile—that may end up on the victim’s credit.

Synthetic identity theft is a problem for victims, of course, but creditors take an even bigger hit. Creditors that grant credit based on fake records and fake people have little recourse. But it also complicates things for individual victims if their names become associated with synthetic identities, like when credit scores are negatively affected because of information in a fraud-based subfile.

Identity theft protection might pick up your SSN with a different name when it’s used for credit. But if it doesn’t catch it, then the restoration component may also help to clean up the mess.

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

Medical Identity Theft: Ins and Outs

Medical identity theft is the deadliest form of identity theft—and I say this without hyperbole or exaggeration. When financial gain is the general motivation for stealing medical information, insurance cards, records, etc., the crime is a form of account takeover fraud. Medical identity theft—the real kind—occurs when the thief’s motivation is obtaining medical procedures or healthcare.

Insurance cards allow access to a hospital or doctor’s office. When requests for additional forms of identity are requested, the thief produces fake IDs. Often, the thief conspires with an employee at the facility who “sweethearts” the transaction so the thief can get medical services.

Insurance cards are just paper or plastic and can easily be counterfeited. Many are often lost or stolen, and simply possessing an insurance card allows a thief access. Hospitals rely on the honor system, believing patients are who they say they are—but people lie. And while most of the administrators are doing their jobs ethically, some lie too.

When a thief steals a medical ID to procure medical care, the thief’s medical condition and diagnosis are added to the victim’s medical record. Ouch. This may end up as a misdiagnosis, and the introduction of data that might conflict with the victim’s medical history or conditions. Such would-be contraindications as allergies, drugs the victim may be allergic to, and other health issues may not be considered. Finally, getting misinformation or fraud removed from a victim’s medical record can be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.

To protect yourself from medical identity theft:

  • Install a locking mailbox. This helps prevent mail from being stolen.
  • Never carry insurance or medical cards on your person unless you have an actual appointment.
  • Protect medical information documents in locking file cabinets or encrypted files. Shred all throwaway documents.
  • Get identity theft protection. When a thief can’t steal your financial ID, your medical ID will be less attractive.

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

Does Identity Theft Protection Really Work?

Do identity protection service really work? How effective are their scanning/monitoring methods? Can they truly protect consumers? The answers may vary. Identity theft protection is designed to protect you from new lines of credit being opened in your name—and along with the recovery/restoration component, it’s designed to clean up the mess.

It’s safe to say I’m an expert on identity theft protection. But honestly, sometimes I get confused by what different companies offer for identity theft protection. Sometimes their marketing copy is confusing and often misleading. There has always been a lack of transparency when it comes to identity theft protection.

Identity protection should be transparent. If you are spending 10 or more bucks a month, you want to know what you are getting.

  • Monitoring of credit bureaus: Monitoring may consist of one to three credit bureaus. So when a credit check is made, you are notified.
  • Monitoring of Social Security numbers (SSN) via credit applications: Some services have technology that is in place with major creditors and phone companies, and this technology looks for your SSN and alerts you when it’s in use by anyone, including you.
  • Monitoring of the internet: There are chatrooms and forums filled with criminals who broker our stolen data. There are websites that store our information. If your sensitive data shows up, you are notified.
  • Medical identity theft protection: Some companies say they will help protect you from medical identity theft. I’m not sure how, but maybe they have relationships with the Medical Information Bureau.
  • Recovery: When you read the fine print, it usually says the company will only help you recover from identity theft when the service’s product fails to provide the protection you bought. However, most protection services will at least walk you by the hand or point you in a direction to solve your issues. They don’t usually leave you stranded.
  • Lost wallet protection: With this, you can register your credit cards with the service so in the event your wallet goes missing, one call to the service will shut them all down and reorder new cards.
  • Credit card protection: Identity theft protection can’t protect your credit cards. Your bank might offer a service that involves a form of “zero liability” in the event your card is compromised.
  • Bank account protection: Identity theft protection can’t protect your bank account, but their recovery services may help you in the event you are hacked.
  • Service guarantee: Many offer a million-dollar service guarantee or something comparable. The point of this guarantee is to let you know the service will spend up to that dollar amount to fix your problem. In reality, it shouldn’t take more than a few dozen phone calls by a professional and maybe the services of a lawyer to make identity theft go away.

These services know what they are doing. It’s their life. And we at know what we are doing, so check out how we disseminate what’s what—and decide for yourself.

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

Top 10 Identity Theft Scams

There are no shortage of ways identity thieves have to scam you out of your credit, cash and identity. Here are 10 more ways criminals pounce on their victims:

  1. Mailbox raiding. Moments after the postal carrier drops off your mail, a crackhead comes by and steals it.
  2. Dumpster diving. You know that mortgage company that you did business with before it went out of business? Well, the head idiot tossed all your records and his other clients’ personal information into the dumpster.
  3. Trash collecting. While similar to dumpster diving, it is not—because you are in control. Ask yourself this: “If someone stole my trash, would I be upset because my identity could be stolen?” If you say yes, then you should shred all your discarded papers.
  4. Caller ID spoofing. Phone fraud is a big deal. When scammers call you and pretend to be someone else, they may spoof caller ID to make you believe the source is a legitimate entity like the police, government agency, bank or lottery.
  5. Email phishing. Getting an email from your bank to update your account or simply access your statement is dangerous. Just delete it. Access your account via your browser’s favorites or password manager.
  6. Nigerian 419 scam. When General Motumboo Bumbooby emails you because there’s a trunk of money waiting from a dead relative, delete.
  7. ATM skimming. Anytime you use an ATM, your bank card is at risk. Look for external skimming devices and cover up the keypad with your other hand as you type your PIN.
  8. Credit card skimming. Handing your card over to a store clerk or waiter puts your digits at risk. Don’t worry about it, but diligently check your statements, frequently.
  9. Spyware. Remember that stupid weather toolbar you downloaded that wreaked havoc on your PC with all those popups? There’s a good chance spyware was also installed, letting a bad guy watch your every move.

10. Hacking. Because you don’t update your antivirus, your PC is vulnerable to remote-access Trojans that allow a criminal backdoor access to your My Documents folder.

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

Know the 10 Warning Signs of Identity Theft

As I have witnessed throughout the many years I have worked with victims, each type of identity theft can have a devastating impact. Victims with whom I have worked are taxpaying citizens who do the right thing and work hard to earn honest livings. When their personal information was compromised, thieves opened up financial accounts in their victims’ names, and when these new accounts were opened, it affected the victims’ ability to rent an apartment, buy a car or buy a home. When your good name is stolen and stained, you are thrown into a position where you are responsible for fixing it. This means you are delayed in getting the car, home or apartment you need. For those seeking employment, it also means you could lose the opportunity to get a job, because some employers check credit scores to learn more about prospective hires.

Here are 10 signs that your identity may have been compromised.

  1. You are denied credit for no reason. People often discover that their identity has been stolen when they are denied credit. So when you apply for a loan to purchase a car or a home, and you are denied credit, you may discover that it is a result of your credit being damaged by fraud. Accounts may have been opened without your authorization, and the resulting bills would never have been paid.
  2. You are denied employment as a result of a background check. Some people learn that their identity has been stolen when they are denied employment. An employer may check an applicant’s credit history to determine whether he or she is financially responsible. If the applicant’s identity has been stolen, assuming the thief hasn’t been surreptitiously paying the bills, the employer rejects the applicant based on a credit history tainted by fraud.
  3. You are denied admission to school. Schools may also deny admission after checking a prospective student’s credit history, or the student may be unable to secure a college loan because an identity thief has opened accounts in the student’s name. Parents may also discover their identities have been stolen when they apply for loans to pay for their children’s tuition and are denied.
  4. A collection agency calls you for non-payment. Debt collectors may even call identity theft victims, demanding payment for goods or services that the victims never purchased or received.
  5. Arrests and false convictions. In a worst-case scenario, a victim is arrested for a crime he or she did not commit. The identity thief may have a fake ID with the victim’s information; once the thief is arrested and bail is posted, the thief walks while the victim is pursued.
  6. Wrong information on a credit report. When thieves open new accounts under the victim’s name, it is inevitable that the fraudulent accounts will show on the victim’s credit report.
  7. Mail stops arriving, or certain bills or statements don’t arrive. Identity thieves will steal victims’ mail—and in some cases change their mailing address via the Post Office to the fraudulent address of the identity thieves.
  8. You receive bills from companies you’ve never done business with. When an identity thief poses as you, he may buy products that are invoiced—and you receive the bill. In other situations, the thief might bounce a check or max out a credit card that was opened in your name.
  9. You are denied a tax refund. When an identity thief files taxes under your name before you do, he or she gets your refund. File early and protect your data year ‘round.

10. Psychological trauma. You end up in the loony bin because you have no idea how your life has spiraled out of control. Victims of identity theft often have no idea what is happening to them. At times they think they are going crazy and develop a sense of paranoia because they are the puppets and the thief is the puppeteer, all without them knowing it.

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

Healthcare Workers Indicted for Identity Theft

A wise man once said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” The wolf in sheep’s clothing refers to someone in a role contrary to his or her character and with whom contact is dangerous. In other words, sometimes it’s the people we trust the most that commit the worst crimes. And it’s often the people who are the most vulnerable that are victimized.

In Virginia, reports, “Two former health care nurse’s aides were indicted on charges of stealing the identities of at least a dozen patients as part of an elaborate scheme that netted more than $116,000 in fraudulent tax refunds. The men would take names, birth dates and Social Security numbers and give them to other people. Those accomplices, not identified in the indictment, would file false income tax returns collect refunds. Those refunds ranged from about $999 to $7,300, the indictment said.”

The boss of the alleged thieves stated, “We take the protection of patient information entrusted to us very seriously and have safeguards in place.” He added that “every employee is required to sign a pledge each year promising to protect patient information.”

This is hardly a new phenomenon. When I was in my early 20s, I knew a guy who worked as a home healthcare clinician and did this to his elderly patients. He had a cocaine problem and was just a nasty human being to begin with.

If you or anyone in your family is under the care of “professionals” who are put in a position of trust, know that trust is no more than a signed pledge away from being broken.

The best protection against identity theft is a combination of credit freezing and identity theft protection. Tax-related identity theft can’t be protected by either; however, the restorative component of an identity theft protection service may assist you in cleaning up the mess. Before making an investment, ask what is offered and if the service will do anything to prevent or fix tax-related identity theft.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention. For Robert’s FREE ebook, text SECURE Your@emailaddress to 411247.