Financial Preparedness in a Disaster

You have probably heard that it’s important to be prepared for a disaster. You might have a first aid kit set aside, food and water, or a battery-operated radio. But, are you financially prepared?

Creating an Emergency Fund

It might be tough but try to set aside some money a little at a time. Even if you can put $10 a week in an envelope, it’s better than nothing. Saving change can really add up quickly, too. Keeping a credit card available is also a good idea, but remember…in a disaster situation, it might be very difficult to use a credit card. Here’s a few more ways to save some cash in the event of a disaster:

  • Limit or Quit Habits – If you smoke, drink fancy lattes, or even love your extravagant dinners, consider limiting them or even quitting them. Let’s say the latte you get every day before work is $6 once you pay for the tip. If you stop doing that, or even make them at home, you could save $1000 to $2000 or more over the course of a year.
  • Pay Bills When They are Due – You might not even realize it but paying your bills on time can also help you save money. Each late fee adds up, and so does interest. Most major lenders and utility companies allow you to schedule payments in advance, so if you are sure to have money in the bank, this is a great idea.
  • Get a New Gig – Finally, think of things that you can do to earn more money. Do you have a hobby you like, such as woodworking or knitting, that you could do for profit? Do you write? There are easy to find writing jobs online, too. If you have a skill like that, or something similar, consider looking at freelance sites like Fiverr. Can you cook? Bake and sell your creations to family and friends. All of these things can bring extra cash in; cash that you can use in the case of a disaster.

There is not a solution here that will work for every family, but you should be able to think of some way to help you put away a little money. You also might be able to do two or three things. Some people believe we are close to some type of world disaster, like, I dunno, our government is taking about building short range nukes again. GREAT IDEA! So you might want to be ready just in case.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Why You should file your Tax Return Yesterday

Someone else might file your taxes if you don’t get to it. And they won’t be doing it as a favor; they’ll be doing it to steal your identity.

9DHere’s how it works:

  • Cyber thieves send fraudulent e-mails to a business’s employees.
  • The e-mails are designed to look like they came from the big wigs at the company.
  • As a result, the targeted employees are tricked into revealing sensitive data about the company’s employees.
  • The crooks end up with all this valuable data—enough to file phony tax returns.
  • This ploy, called spear phishing, has already occurred to major companies.

Recently, the Mansueto Ventures company was hit by a spear phishing attack that singled out the employee payroll data. The hacker/s got ahold of the following employee information: Social Security number, name, address and income.

Employees have been notified, but how many of those employees have not yet filed their income tax returns? Of those, how many will be victims of identity theft because a hacker filed a tax return in their name as a result of obtaining the payroll data?

Again, get to your tax preparer ASAP, or if you normally file the return yourself, what are you waiting for?

Seagate is another company that got spear phished. The W-2 forms of its employees got into the hands of the thief or thieves. Apparently, the data of several thousand employees was stolen.

All it takes is one employee to get suckered into clicking the wrong e-mail. It’s possible for these e-mails to really, truly look like they came from a major decision maker from inside the company. A skilled hacker will carefully construct an e-mail that mimics company e-mail, complete with logo and company colors, and even the full name of the person he’s pretending to be. The e-mail may even address its recipient by name.

How does the thief get this information? It may all begin with the information he finds on a LinkedIn profile. Other bits and pieces may have been gathered off of Facebook or an online article about the person he’s impersonating, right down to that person’s nickname, making the fake e-mail look even more authentic, signing off with that person’s odd nickname.

Have you filed your tax return yet?

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Financial Services and Retail band together to fight Fraud

Finally, retailers and banks have agreed to work together to fight data breach incidents, foregoing the finger-pointing of who’s responsible for prevention and recovery.

1DThis means both entities will work to improve technology that will protect consumers. Historically, the squabbling consisted of retailers accusing banks of being lethargic at adopting updated, more secure debit card technology; and banks insisting that retailers soak up more of the costs for card replacement following breaches.

However, despite the move forward of joining forces, banks and retailers will surely continue having differences. For example, the cost of getting replacement cards is “not something that the two industries are likely to agree upon,” said Tim Pawlenty to Reuters; he’s chief executive of the Financial Services Roundtable.

So how did both parties decide to join forces? Pawlenty was contacted by Sandy Kennedy, the head of the retail leaders group.

This partnership will develop improved communication so that retailers can have a formal program regarding cyber threats. “We both viewed this as an opportunity to collaborate rather than to wage a public battle,” says Brian Dodge of the retail leaders group.

In addition to card related breaches, the partnership will focus also on smartphone security. Use of mobiles to make payments has stunted progress between retailers and banks.

In fact, MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. have named a 2015 deadline to implement “chip and PIN” cards to replace the magnetic stripped cards that are so vulnerable to hacking.

Unfortunately, this switch is pricey, and both retailers and banks are not willing to be the first to take that dive off the high board. Especially since more and more people are using mobiles to make payments.

However, security for mobile users could reinforce the retail-bank partnership, says David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report. “We need to make sure that mobile becomes a secure way of doing business,” he says.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to AllClearID. 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.

Student Financial Aid Fraud is a big Problem

Educational institutions are giving out student loans and grants, and the recipients aren’t even attending school. Instead they’re spending the money any which way, while the schools have no idea they’re being ripped off.

9DWith a database, the Education Department flags applicants who’ve applied for federal Pell grants—applicants with an “unusual enrollment history,” such as having received financial aid for at least three schools in only 12 months.

The Department forwards these suspect names to educational institutions; the schools then request that applicants provide documents including prior transcripts. What the school then gets from the applicant determines if a loan or grant is denied.

This flagging procedure has caught 126,000 applicants who sought aid for the 2013-2014 school year.

It’s so easy to scam schools because most federal aid does not require a credit check, and how the money is spent is not tightly restricted.

A school receives the money from the government and spends some on tuition. The remainder is sent as a check to the recipients to spend on books and even living expenses while (supposedly) the recipient attends classes.

Community colleges are especially vulnerable due to their open enrollment and low tuition. The lower the tuition, the more money that’s left over to be sent to the con artist.

The proliferation of this scam can be attributed to the Internet because online applications can result in receiving aid—without the applicant ever being within a mile of the campus.

Application Red Flags

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) names the following alerts that financial aid offices can check applications for.

  • Large financial aid refunds or disbursements
  • Attendance at several other colleges
  • A large student loan balance but no degree

Unfortunately, these red flags won’t flutter much if the applicant is a first-time scammer.

Data Red Flags (according to the AACC)

  • Several registrations coming from similar locations out of state
  • Several uses of the same PO box, physical address or IP address
  • Multiple uses of the same computer and/or bank account
  • The emergency contact is the same person for multiple registrants.
  • Certain courses getting a fast increase in number of enrollees
  • Frequent communication from similar individuals or locations

Every applicant should be identity-proofed, which is easier said than done. Verification is one element of identity proofing.

To combat this fraud, Finaid.org notes:

  1. Families must sign a waiver allowing the financial aid office to obtain tax returns straight from the IRS. Some people have submitted fraudulent tax return copies during verification. Getting them directly from the IRS prevents falsification. Another route is to require families to provide copies of their 1099 and W-2 forms, especially when income figures seem suspect.
  2. Request copies of the applicant’s four most recent bank statements; inspect them for unusual transfers and unreported income.
  3. Conduct 100 percent verification.
  4. For parents claiming to be enrolled in college, require a proof of registration plus copy of the paid tuition bill. Confirm registration with the school. And if a parent with a PhD or master’s degree is returning to school for an associate’s degree, be highly suspect.
  5. In cases of divorce or separation, ask for the divorce decree or proof of legal separation, plus street address for each parent.
  6. Compare to each other two consecutive income tax returns to detect any movement of assets to hide them.

There’s more that can be done for identity proofing: biometric software. Biometric Signature ID (BSI) has designed a “Missing Link” patented software-only biometric.

This is the most potent form of ID verification on today’s market, and additional hardware is not required. It measures:

  • Unique way someone moves the mouse, finger or stylus upon logging in
  • Length, direction angle, speed, stroke height, of the

The password is created with BioSig-ID™. Measurement of the above can positively identify the user, regardless of what device they log into. This technology makes it impossible for a fraudster to impersonate the user.

With these unique patterns, BSI software can distinguish the user from everyone else. If the person who registered for the account is NOT the same person who is attempting access, they are stopped – avoiding any potential cheating or financial aid fraud.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert and BioSig-ID advisory board member. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video. Disclosures.

Oversharing on Social Media Common Amongst 50+

Thanks to social media, societal norms have undergone a seismic shift in the past five years. What was once considered private or even taboo is not only fair game, it’s expected. But this can have serious consequences from the ending of friendships to exposure to physical harm.

I’ve talked about the concept of TMI or too much information and how social networking and mobile devices have made sharing so much easier and faster than ever before. But we all need to seriously think about some hard consequences of sharing too much personal information. Thinks about it…is that friend really a friend if you haven’t seen them in 25 years?

McAfee’s Fifty Plus Booms Online study found despite the fact that social networks have a reputation among the younger generation as a hub for drama among friends, this is also the case among other demographics—even in the 50-and-over age group. According to respondents, 16% of those who are active on social networks have had a negative experience, with almost 20% of those resulting in ending a friendship.

Further, the study finds that even though 88% consider themselves tech-savvy, they are still engaging in dangerous online behavior, such as sharing personal information with people they have never met in person. Even though 75% of them believe that social networks can expose them to risks such as fraud and identity theft, 52% have shared their email address, 27% their mobile phone number and 26% their home address. All things that open them up to possible exploitation and even physical harm.

They are also using their mobile devices to share information. Nearly one in four (24%) mobile users have used their device to send personal or intimate text messages, emails or photos to someone and yet over 30% do not have basic password protection on their mobile devices and almost half do not have any security software on their mobile devices.

financial-fraud

And because these boomers (and all of us) are spending more time online─with 97% of them going online daily and spending an average of 5 hours a day online─ we all must be aware of the concerns that exist with the increased use of mobile devices for everyday tasks and social networking and what information we may be sharing.

Here’s some tips to help us stay protected:

  • Remember the Internet is forever—Even if you have the highest privacy settings, it’s good practice to consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge, so be careful what you share online or via your mobile device.
  • Don’t reveal personal information—Seriously consider why it’s needed before you post your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information online.
  • Put a PIN on it—Make sure you have your smartphone and tablet set to auto-lock after a certain time of unused and make sure it requires a PIN or passcode to unlock it. This is especially helpful to protect any information you do not want seen should your device be lost or stolen.
  • Manage your privacy settings—At most, only friends you know in real life should be able to see details of your profile.
  • Change your passwords frequently—In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords.
  • Turn off the GPS (Global Positioning Service) function on your smartphone camera—If you are going to be sharing your images online, you don’t want people to know the exact location of where you are.
  • Use comprehensive security on all your device Enjoy a safe online experience no matter what you do or where you are. McAfee LiveSafe™ service protects all your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets and can help you secure your data and keep your identity private with its many different features, including a secure data vault, password manager, and protection from phishing scams and malware.

So…really, please, come on now, can we all just tone it down a notch? And one more thing: Please protect your devices—I mean ALL your devices.

Follow @McAfeeConsumer for live online safety updates and tips and use hashtag #BabyBoomers to join the discussion on Twitter or like McAfee on Facebook.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

Identity Theft Protection Expert and One You Security: Research Reveals That Usability of Social Security Numbers Enables Mortgage Fraudsters

(SARASOTA, Fla. – July 30, 2008 – One You Security) The results of a research investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently revealed an apparent, significant upward trend in the incidence of mortgage fraud. Furthermore, homeowners who have Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOCs) are prime targets for financial fraud, suggested a related statement from the Identity Theft Assistance Center (ITAC). The best way to combat the threat is to transform Social Security numbers into something useless to thieves, who use these universal identifiers to obtain financial identities, said Robert Siciliano, widely televised and quoted identity theft protection expert and chief security analyst for One You Security, LLC.

"Social Security numbers’ de facto role as universal identifiers has fueled a massive increase in financial fraud—simply because these numbers allow criminals to assume others’ identities," said Siciliano. "Given the scope of financial fraud, which costs billions of dollars every year, consumers need a way to deprive thieves of the ability to gain access to someone else’s finances. They must implement measures that render those Social Security numbers useless to thieves."

Subscribers to One You Security receive newsletters and special alerts from Siciliano. Through these, they get the latest information on data breaches and learn more about identity theft prevention. Chief security analyst for One You Security and a member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report‘s editorial board, Siciliano regularly discusses data security and consumer protection on CNBC, on NBC’s "Today Show," FOX News Network and elsewhere.

Released in April of 2008, the FBI’s 2007 Mortgage Fraud Report found that "Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) from financial institutions indicated an increase in mortgage fraud reporting" in 2007. The year-over-year increase in SARs was 31 percent, according to the report, which went on to note that there is no central repository for mortgage fraud complaints in the U.S. Additionally, the report revealed that the total dollar impact of mortgage fraud is unknown, but that the losses associated with just 7 percent of SARs in 2007 was $813 million.

A July 8th news release from ITAC noted the FBI report’s attention to an emerging, related crime: home equity credit fraud. Consumers with HELOCs should regularly check them for suspicious activity and unaccountable discrepancies in balances, according to ITAC, whose announcement was reported in The New York Times on July 27.

"How do thieves obtain credit?" asked Chris Harris, president and CEO of One You Security. "They do so by assuming the identity of another person, and it’s largely the utility of Social Security numbers that allows them to do so. Financial fraud related to identity theft is in fact dependent on this, but the effect of One You’s service functionally strips Social Security numbers of this utility, leaving criminals with nothing but a bunch of nine-digit numbers that no longer give them access to would-be victims’ financial identities."

Consumers who choose One You Security do so in part because the company strives to transform their Social Security numbers into meaningless strings of digits of no use to thieves. The firm backs all its offerings with a 100 percent service guarantee.

The YouTube video below shows Siciliano on FOX News Network, where he explains how the ubiquity of Social Security numbers as universal identifiers helps thieves online and off-line. A collection of videos at VideoJug features Siciliano sharing advice on how consumers can protect themselves from identity theft and fraud.

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About One You Security, LLC

Sarasota, Fla.-based One You Security‘s mission is to eliminate the threat and consequences of identity theft. For just $10 per month, anyone can sign up for One You Security’s identity theft protection service, a proactive, preventative approach whereby the company activates and manages its customers’ fraud alerts with major credit bureaus. Subscribers also receive full access to ongoing education from identity theft protection expert Robert Siciliano, chief security analyst for One You Security, which backs up its promise to protect clients’ financial identities with a 100 percent service guarantee. To sign up for One You Security, dial 1-800-434-2010.

About IDTheftSecurity.com

Identity theft affects us all, and Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, chief security analyst for One You Security, and member of the Bank Fraud & IT Security Report‘s editorial board, makes it his mission to provide consumer education solutions on identity theft to Fortune 500 companies and their clients. Author of "The Safety Minute: 01" and leader of personal safety and security seminars nationwide, Siciliano has been featured on "The Today Show," CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, "FOX News," "The Suze Orman Show," "The Montel Williams Show," "Maury Povich," "Sally Jesse Raphael," "The Howard Stern Show," and "Inside Edition." Numerous magazines, print news outlets, and wire services have turned to him, as well, for expert commentary on personal security and identity theft protection. These include Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Woman’s Day, Mademoiselle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, United Press International, Reuters, and others. For more information, visit Siciliano’s Web site, blog, and YouTube page.

The media are encouraged to get in touch with any of the following individuals:

Chris Harris
President & CEO of One You Security
PHONE: 941-342-0500 (x231)
chris@oneyou.com
http://www.oneyou.com

Robert Siciliano
CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com
Chief Security Analyst for One You Security
PHONE: 888-SICILIANO (742-4542)
FAX: 877-2-FAX-NOW (232-9669)
Robert@IDTheftSecurity.com
http://www.idtheftsecurity.com

Brent W. Skinner
President & CEO of STETrevisions
PHONE: 617-875-4859
FAX: 866-663-6557
BrentSkinner@STETrevisions.com
http://www.STETrevisions.com
http://brentskinner.blogspot.com

Personal Security and Identity Theft Expert Says New Research on Identity Theft’s Prevalence and Financial Cost Reveal Challenges for Industry

(BOSTON, Mass. – March 19, 2007 – IDTheftSecurity.com) Studies released in February and earlier this month juxtaposed a rise in identity thefts with a decrease in the financial hit Americans incurred for those thefts. Robert Siciliano, a widely televised and quoted personal security and identity theft expert, said the findings spelled both good and bad news for those combating identity thieves.

“With any market boom, legal or illegal,” Siciliano said, “promises of lucrative earnings will convince people of many stripes to try their hands at something new. While some research suggests that consumers may be wising up to identity theft, catching thieves before the damage is done, thieves have only redoubled efforts. More thieves than ever are now trying twice as hard.”

President of IDTheftSecurity.com, Siciliano leads Fortune 500 companies and their clients in workshops that explore consumer education solutions for data security issues. The Privacy Learning Institute has featured Siciliano, a longtime speaker on identity theft. Author of “The Safety Minute: 01,” He has discussed identity theft and data security on CNBC, on NBC’s “Today Show,” FOX News, and elsewhere.

On Feb. 1, Reuters reported data from Javelin Strategy & Research, a California-based provider of business and market intelligence, showing an 11.9 percent decline in total identity theft–related financial losses that Americans experienced in 2006 vs. in 2005.

Javelin’s research also showed a modest decrease in the number of Americans who learned that “criminals committed fraud with personal data such as credit card or Social Security numbers,” as the Reuters article put it. The 2005 number, according to Javelin, was 8.9 million, whereas the 2006 number dropped to 8.4 million; Javelin’s number for 2003 was 10.1 million.

On March 7, CNET News.com reported a report whose findings were, in some ways, at odds with Javelin’s. The study, from Gartner, found that the number of Americans who fell prey to identity theft–related fraud in 2006 was 15 million. This was a 50 percent increase over the 9.9 million Americans that the Federal Trade Commission estimated, in 2003, would be affected by 2006.

Siciliano likened the situation, as Gartner’s research portrays it, to the housing market boom: “Countless real estate agents join brokerages every day, and just because the realty market is now shrinking doesn’t mean all those new realtors won’t try to make sales. They will, in fact, try twice as hard.”

Of the differences between Javelin’s and Gartner’s studies, Siciliano said, “We’re mixing apples and oranges. Fraud involving credit cards and Social Security numbers is detrimental, for sure, but also a problem different than identity theft. Some numbers pertain exclusively to identity theft, while others represent online auction fraud.”

“We’re also discussing billions of dollars for a population, the United States’, that barely clears 300 million,” Siciliano concluded. “Stratospheric losses like those are unacceptable. Even if the multibillion dollar number were to halve itself many times over, too many Americans would still face the possibility of a fleecing at the hands of an identity thief.

“If we are to believe the worst that the latest research suggests,” Siciliano concluded, “then the situation is dire indeed. But even if the best possible scenario that these findings suggest is the case, the situation is still abysmal.”

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About IDTheftSecurity.com
Identity theft affects us all, which is why Robert Siciliano, president of IDTheftSecurity.com, makes it his mission to provide consumer education solutions on identity theft to Fortune 500 companies and their clients. A leader of personal safety and security seminars nationwide, Siciliano has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, “The Suze Orman Show,” “ABC News with Sam Donaldson,” “The Montel Williams Show,” “Maury Povich,” “Sally Jesse Raphael,” and “The Howard Stern Show.” Visit Siciliano’s Web site, www.IDTheftSecurity.com, or his blog, www.IDTheftSecurity.blogspot.com.

The media are encouraged to get in touch with Siciliano directly:

Robert Siciliano
Personal Security Expert
PHONE: 888-SICILIANO (742-4542)
FAX: 877-2-FAX-NOW (232-9669)
Robert@IDTheftSecurity.com
www.idtheftsecurity.com

The media may also contact:

Brent W. Skinner, President
STETrevisions
PHONE: 617-875-4859
FAX: 866-663-6557
BrentSkinner@STETrevisions.biz
www.STETrevisions.biz