Identity Theft Expert; Fake IDs are as easy as 1,2,3

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Do an online search for “fake ids” and you’ll be amazed to discover how easy it can be to obtain an ID allowing you to pose as someone else. Or how easy it can be for someone else to obtain an ID that will allow him or her to pose as you. Some websites peddle poor quality cards, others offer excellent quality, and many websites are simply scams.

The fact is, our existing identification systems are insufficiently secure, and our identifying documents are easily copied. Anyone with a computer, scanner and printer can recreate an ID. Outdated systems exasperate the problem by making it too easy to obtain a real ID at the DMV, with either legitimate or falsified information.

Another glitch is the potential for individuals to completely alter their appearances. Men with facial hair can wreak havoc on the current system. This is sometimes done as a prank. In other cases, the individual is attempting to subvert the system to maintain a degree of anonymity. New technologies, such as facial recognition, should eventually resolve some of these problems, but they are still years away from being fully implemented.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, a man was able to obtain six different IDs. He accomplished this by visiting various different registries throughout the state and using borrowed names and stolen information. He obtained job applicant data from a failed body shop business he had owned. He used the false identities to open checking accounts at multiple banks and write fraudulent checks to himself.  He was caught while applying for his seventh ID, thanks to facial recognition software. But it is disturbing to know that he was able to acquire six different identities, all stolen from real people, without detection. It was a bank employee who eventually noticed that he had two different bank accounts under two different names. If the man hadn’t been so greedy, he would have gotten away with it.

In Indianapolis and other registries the daily photos are compared to millions of others already on file. The system constantly scans the data and presents cases that might match, requiring further investigation by registry employees.

Some of the requirements of improving facial recognition include not smiling for your picture or smile as long as you keep your lips together. Other requirements meant to aid the facial recognition software include keeping your head upright (not tilted), not wearing eyeglasses in the photo, not wearing head coverings, and keeping your hair from obscuring your forehead, eyebrows, eyes, or ears.

The fact is, identity theft is a big problem due to a systematic lack of effective identification and is going to continue to be a problem until further notice. In the meantime it is up to you to protect yourself. The best defense from new account fraud is identity theft protection.

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.
Includes;

Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft

Judge Rules; It is legal to post Social Security numbers on Web sites

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

B.J. Ostergren is a proud Virginian. She’s known as “The Virginia Watchdog,” but I like to call her “The Pit Bull of Personal Privacy.” She is relentless in her efforts to protect citizens’ privacy, and she is primarily concerned with the posting of personal information online. So in order to make this point, she finds politicians’ personal information on their own states’ websites, and republishes that information online.

Publicly appointed government employees known as Clerks of Courts, County Clerks or Registrars are responsible for handling and managing public records, including birth, death, marriage, court, property and business filings for municipalities. Every state, city and town has its own set of regulations determining how data is collected and made available to the public.

The Privacy Act of 1974 is a federal law that establishes a code of fair information practices governing the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of personally identifiable information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.

Over the years, many have interpreted this law to allow public information, including Social Security numbers, to be posted online. I’ve seen Social Security numbers for Jeb Bush, Colin Powell, former CIA Director Porter Goss, Troy Aiken, and Donald Trump, all published on the Internet.

Years ago, B.J. discovered that several states, including her home state of Virginia, were posting our records online, and she immediately saw how this could contribute to identity theft. She has downloaded as many as 22,000 Social Security numbers from deeds, mortgages, tax liens from the websites of circuit courts, registers of deeds and secretaries of state. She made a concerted effort to inform each agency that what they were doing was unethical, at the very least, and possibly even criminal. But she was often rebuked. That’s when she decided to fight back. When government agencies stopped listening, she started posting politicians’ personal information on her own website, “The Virginia Watchdog.” This certainly attracted the attention of officials, but it also created a backlash against her.

Some states resolved the issue by redacting the Social Security numbers, but Virginia did not. B.J. persisted in informing them of the problem and, as the Richmond Times Dispatch put it, “the state decided that the person who brought the problem to their attention was the problem.”

A 2008 Virgina state law prohibited disseminating information taken from public records, and thus, prohibited B.J. from posting publicly available information on her own website. So legally, it was okay for the County Clerk to do it, but nobody else was allowed. U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Payne recently ruled that this 2008 state law is a violation of First Amendment rights. It’s a win for B.J., but this doesn’t resolve the initial privacy issue.

So how does this impact you? This means that while you can do everything possible to protect yourself from fraud and identity theft, your local government may be circumventing your security efforts by posting your personal data online. B.J.’s fight has led to the resolution of some issues and prompted some states to redact data, but the battle is far from over.

Visit B.J.’s site, The Virginia Watchdog, to become more informed about one woman’s quest to point out what’s wrong and to fight for what’s right.

Next, protecting yourself from new account fraud requires a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. This provides an extra layer of protection. In most cases it prevents the opening of new credit.

Consider making an investment in Intelius Identity Protect. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back. Includes a Free Credit Report, SSN monitoring, Credit & Debit Card monitoring, Bank Account monitoring, Email fraud alerts, Public Records Monitoring, Customizable “Watch List”, $25,000 in ID theft insurance, Junk Mail OptOut and Credit Card Offer OptOut.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing availability of Social Security numbers

TJX Identity Theft Costs Another 10 million, Protect Yourself from WarDriving

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Most people are familiar with the TJX data breach, in which 45 million credit card numbers were stolen. TJX recently agreed to pay $9.75 million to 41 states to settle an investigation of the massive data breach. According to some reports, TJX has spent up to $256 million attempting to fix the problem that led to the breach.

It’s been said repeatedly that the criminal hackers responsible for the breach were sitting in a car outside a store when they stumbled across a vulnerable, unprotected wireless network using a laptop, a telescope antenna, and an 802.11 wireless LAN adapter. This process is called “Wardriving.”

WiFi is everywhere. Whether you travel for business or simply need Internet access while out and about, your options are plentiful. You can sign on at airports, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and now, airplanes. What are your risk factors when accessing wireless? There are plenty. WiFi wasn’t born to be secure. It was born to be convenient. As more sensitive data has been wirelessly transmitted over the years, the need for security has evolved. Today, with criminal hackers as sophisticated as they ever have been, wireless communications are at an even higher risk.

When setting up a wireless router, there are two different security techniques you can use. WiFi Protected Access is a certification program that was created in response to several serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, Wired Equivalent Privacy. Wired Equivalent Privacy was introduced in 1997 and is the original form of wireless network security. Wireless networks broadcast messages using radio and are thus more susceptible to eavesdropping than wired networks.

It’s one thing to access your own wireless connection from your home or office. It entirely another story when accessing someone else’s unprotected network. Setting up a secure WiFi connection will protect the data on your network, for the most part, but if you’re on someone else’s network, secured or unsecured, your data is at risk. Anyone using an open network risks exposing their data. There are many ways to see who’s connected on a wireless connection, and gain access to their data.

There are a few things you should do to protect yourself while using wireless. Be smart about what kind of data you transmit on a public wireless connection. There’s no need to make critical transactions while sipping that macchiato.

Don’t store critical data on a device used outside the secure network. I have a laptop and an iPhone. If they are hacked, there’s nothing on either device that would compromise me.

Install Hotspot Shield. A free ad supported program, Hotspot Shield protects your entire web surfing session by securing your connection, whether you’re at home or in public, using wired or wireless Internet. Hotspot Shield does this by ensuring that all web transactions are secured through HTTPS. They also offer an iPhone application. There are fee based programs, including Publicvpn.com and HotSpotVPN, which can create a secure “tunnel” between a computer and the site’s server.

Turn off WiFi and blue tooth on your laptop or cell phone when you’re not using them. An unattended device emitting wireless signals is very appealing to a criminal hacker.

Beware of free WiFi connections. Anywhere you see a broadcast for “Free WiFi,” consider it a red flag. It’s likely that free WiFi is meant to act as bait.

Beware of evil twins. These are connections that appear legitimate but are actually traps set to snare anyone who connects.

Keep your antivirus and operating system updated. Make sure your anti-virus is automatically updated and your operating systems critical security patches are up to date.

Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. Because when all else fails you’ll have someone watching your back. Includes a Free Credit Report, SSN monitoring, Credit & Debit Card monitoring, Bank Account monitoring, Email fraud alerts, Public Records Monitoring, Customizable “Watch List”, $25,000 in ID theft insurance, Junk Mail OptOut and Credit Card Offer OptOut.

Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing criminal wireless hack

Insider Identity Theft Poses Major Threats

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

A Boston woman has been indicted for allegedly stealing at least 34 identities, which she was able to access from her workplace, a medical cost-management firm.

“This was an extensive scheme in which the defendant used her access to the victims’ personal identifying information as a means to steal their identities, obtain credit cards in their names without their knowledge, and then use those credit cards to make purchases for her own personal gain,” said the local District Attorney. “The defendant had access to a large database of health care professionals that contained their personal information.”

State police learned of the fraud when a physician discovered that a credit card had been set up in her name and sent to a P.O. Box in Lowell, Massachusetts. Further investigation by postal inspectors revealed that other cards had also been sent to this P.O. Box. If convicted, she could face up to 75 years in state prison for 15 counts of grand larceny, 100 years for 20 counts of credit card fraud, 55 years for 22 counts of identity theft, and 20 years in for being a “common and notorious thief.”

As much as 70% of all identity theft is committed by someone with inside access to organizations such as corporations, banks or government agencies, or simply someone who has an existing relationship with the victim. People with access to sensitive personal data are most likely to commit identity theft. For many, it’s just too easy not to.

An identity thief begins by acquiring a target’s personal identifying information: name, Social Security number, birth date and address, in that order. If the thief has regular access to a database, he can simply copy and paste the information into an online credit application, or hand write the information on a paper credit card application.

Many credit applications request current and previous addresses. So the thief fills out the victim’s current address as “previous” and plugs in a new address, usually a P.O. Box or the thief’s own address, where the new credit card will be sent. I’m amazed that a lender or credit card company can be careless enough to send a new credit card to a relatively anonymous P.O. Box. The lender just checks the victim’s credit and, since everything matches, no red flags pop up. The card is issued and the fun begins.

Once the thief receives the new card, he or she activates it from a throwaway cell phone. The next step is to either use the card to withdraw as much cash as possible from an ATM, or max it out with charges and then resell the stolen goods through classified ads or online auctions. If the thief is suffering from a drug addiction, it can be impossible to stop this cycle, because stealing identities goes hand in hand with addictive behavior. It’s like gambling. Thieves get a high or a rush when they feel they’re beating the system.

In the case of the Boston woman mentioned above, most people’s first response would be a determination that her employer should have done more to protect the data. There are numerous technologies that monitor, manage, control and restrict who has access to sensitive information. Today, these technologies are being deployed more often than ever before, due to various regulatory issues. However, regardless of what technologies are deployed, all you need to open a file cabinet is a key, if the cabinet is even locked in the first place. So how do you protect yourself when someone has full access to all your information?

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name.
2. Invest in Intelius Identity Protect. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

Includes;
Personal Identity Profile – Find out if you’re at risk for identity theft with a detailed report of your identity information, including a current credit report, address history, aliases, and more.

24/7 Identity Monitoring and Alerts – Prevent identity theft with automatic monitoring that scans billions of public records daily and alerts you to suspicious activity.

Identity Recovery Assistance – Let professionals help you recover your identity if you ever become a victim of identity theft.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing identity theft

Requests For Social Security Numbers Leads to Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

A patient at a Washington state medical clinic was asked for his Social Security number numerous times. Many of us have endured this familiar process. Considering the recent buzz about identity theft, this patient became concerned about releasing his own sensitive personal data, and requested that the facility remove his Social Security number from their records. The clinic refused, the patient put up a stink, and was ultimately ejected from the facility. The clinic considered his request unreasonable, and a violation of their rules and regulations. So, who’s right and who’s wrong in this scenario?

One Saturday afternoon, years ago, my spouse and I went to a major chain that rents videos. Without naming them, let’s just say they rent some block buster movies. The account was under my wife’s name, but she didn’t have her card with her that day. Upon checkout, the pimply faced 17-year-old clerk said, “No problem,” and asked for her Social Security number, which appeared on the screen in front of him. I freaked out and was ejected from the store. So, who’s right and who’s wrong?

In both cases, the customer is wrong. That may not be the answer you were expecting. I was wrong and the patient was wrong.

In general, routine information is collected for all hospital patients, including the patient’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, gender and other specific information that helps them verify the individual’s identity, as well as insurance enrollment and coverage data. And due to federally mandated laws like HIPAA, they are careful to maintain confidentiality of all patient information in their systems.

Corporations such as banks, credit card companies, automobile dealers, retailers and even video rental stores who grant credit in any form are going to ask for your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other specific information that helps them verify your identity and do a quick credit check to determine their risk level in granting you credit.

The Social Security Administration says, “Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Provide your Social Security number to your financial institution(s) for tax reporting purposes. Keep your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it in a safe place. DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.” But beyond that they have no advice and frankly, no authority.

Over the past fifty years, the Social Security number has become our de facto national ID. While originally developed and required for Social Security benefits, “functionality creep” occurred. Functionality creep occurs when an item, process, or procedure designed for a specific purpose ends up serving another purpose, which it was never intended to perform.

Here we are decades later, and the Social Security number is the key to the kingdom. Anyone who accesses your number can impersonate you in a hospital or bank. So what do you do when asked for your Social Security number? Many people are refusing to give it out and quickly discovering that this creates a number of hurdles they have to overcome in order to obtain services. Most are often denied that service, and from what I gather, there is nothing illegal about any entity refusing service. Most organizations stipulate access to this data in their “Terms of Service” that you must sign in order to do business with them. They acquire this data in order to protect themselves. By making a concerted effort to verify the identities of their customers, they establish a degree of accountability. Otherwise, anyone could pose as anyone else without consequence.

So where does this leave us? I have previously discussed “Identity Proofing,” and how flawed our identification systems are, and how we might be able to tighten up the system. But we have a long way to go before we are all securely and effectively identified. So, in the meantime, we have to play with the cards we are dealt in order to participate in society and partake in the various services it offers. So, for the time being, you’re going to have to continue giving up your Social Security number.

I give up mine often. I don’t like it, but I do things to protect myself, or at least reduce my vulnerability:

How to protect yourself;

  • You can refuse to give your Social Security number out. This may lead to a denial of service or a request that you, the customer, jump through a series of inconvenient hoops in order to be granted services. When faced with either option, most people throw their arms in the air and give out their Social Security number.
  • You can invest in identity theft protection.
  • You can attempt to protect your own identity, by getting yourself a credit freeze, or setting up your own fraud alerts. You can use Google news alerts to sweep the net and take precautions to prevent social media identity theft.
  • Protect your PC. Regardless of what others do with your Social Security number, you still have to protect the data you have immediate control over. Make sure to invest in Internet security software.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses the ubiquitous use of Social Security numbers.

What have you done in the past when asked for your SSN? Did you refuse? What happened?