Credit card fraud is Americans number one concern

Identity theft Expert Robert Siciliano

A recent study conducted by the Unisys Corporation shows that identity theft as it pertains to credit card fraud is Americans’ number one concern.

When people ask me, “How do I protect myself from credit card fraud?” I tell them, “Cancel the card, or never use it.” Because that’s the only way.

Personal security (as it pertains to violence) and national security have always been a concern. However, this new study shows that people are more concerned with fraud, and the risk of having their savings depleted by scammers. Not so hard to believe, what with the number of data breaches, and the Madoffs of the world fleecing their unsuspecting investors.

75% of Americans feel that the recession has increased their chances of being victimized by criminal hackers and thieves. Most are also concerned their “private” information on a corporate or bank network may be compromised.

FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2008 Annual Report determined that online fraud increased by 33.1% last year. Dollar losses resulting from online fraud increased to $265 million.

Overall, these concerns are valid, due to flaws in the system of issuing credit that facilitate new account fraud. Furthermore, account takeover requires nothing more than access to credit card numbers, which are available in hacked databases or susceptible every time you hand your card over to a gas station attendant.

Viruses in spam or phishing emails continue to plague consumers and as scammers get more sophisticated, the chances of getting hooked increase.

Banks and business will continue to feel the pressure as criminals target their clients’ data.

Credit card skimming at ATMs and gas pumps makes it impossible to protect yourself when you could essentially be handing your digits over to a criminal.

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.

Marite Ferrero, a blogger with Finextra, adds, “In Europe, the points of compromise are everywhere: ATM, gas pumps, parking, DVD rentals, movie tickets, food kiosks, tolls, buying metro tickets, and the list goes on… Because of chip and pin implementation, the proliferation of stand-alone terminals that accept chip and pin has provided a profitable playground for fraudsters.”

While the card holder is generally only responsible for the first $50.00 in losses, which is often waived by a “zero liability policy,” card holders who don’t pay attention to their statements often let these charges pass and eat them.

There are many technologies available to secure credit cards, such as “smart cards” and “chip and pin.” However, due to the nature of a credit card transaction, once the data leaves the card, it’s up for grabs. Whatever card security their may have been is now gone.

Check your credit and banking statements carefully. Scrutinize every charge and refute any unauthorized charges within 30-60 days. Call your bank or credit card company immediately if you see any fraudulent activity.

Invest in identity theft protection. Credit freezes or fraud alerts help prevent new account fraud. Protect your PC with McAfee, or other Internet security software.

Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discusses credit card fraud.

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Is the security community selling fear?

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Cyber crime profits are running into the trillions.

Weekly, and often daily, I remind readers of how potentially screwed they are once they boot up their PCs and access the Internet. Identity theft is a real problem that messes up people’s lives. When someone’s PC is hacked and their passwords are compromised, account takeover can be financially devastating. Even though a financial institution may resolve the errors, victims still lose money.

Most are beginning to realize that the only secure PC is one that is powered off.

Many view these rants as selling “FUD”: fear, uncertainty and doubt. And selling fear is what gets people to buy your security product. Many have accused the Internet security companies of being fear mongers peddling their wares during the Conficker scare.

Fear-based selling has been going on since the beginning of time and will always be a part of the sales cycle. But am I really selling fear? Do those I work with sell fear? I don’t think so. But feel free to disagree with me.

The fact remains that there are scumbags out there, trying to figure out how to get you to part with your money in thousands of different ways, every day, all day. And if reminding readers of all these scams and then selling a solution to the problem is selling fear, then so be it. The question is, is the fear real or made up? Is there a legitimate scare that needs to be brought to light, and a solution that will fix it? Or is this just selling snake oil and false promises, and taking advantage of people?

Information Week states, “The computer security industry has failed computer users, and the Internet has become so unsafe that average users can’t protect themselves.” The Internet is not a safe place for everyday folk. The online world is like Iraq and Afghanistan (dangerous), the Taliban (criminals) are everywhere. Most people do not have the capacity to secure their networks or the technical know-how to surf safely. Studies show that 40% of web surfers haven’t updated their browser’s security, or their Windows-based computers don’t have their critical security patches updated.

The threats are real. The Washington Post reports that Senate lawmakers are advancing legislation to create mandatory computer security standards for government and private sector operators of critical infrastructure. This is legislation that will force standards in security,  ensuring that we keep the lights on, the fields plowed, the water clean, and the engines running.

If there was ever a time to be “fearful” and to make an investment in identity theft protection, Internet security software such as McAfee, or any other protective hardware or software as a result, now is that time.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing online security here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Conficker virus has soft launch

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

With the world watching Conficker has reached out but has not delivered any new malware.

Computer World reports “We have observed that Conficker is reaching out, but so far none of the servers they are trying to reach are serving any new malware or any new commands,” said Toralv Dirro, a security strategist at McAfee Avert Labs, in Germany.

The sense is its developers know IT security professionals are watching closely and are waiting for the noise to die down before making its next update.

A virus of this kind has enough juice to wait around for the white hats to drop their guard then strike.

However there are cures to Conficker and the longer they wait the more PCs will be cured.

For Windows learn more about Conficker and its symptoms here.

McAfee has detailed instructions on its removal here

You may need an IT administrator to do the dirty works as it’s a bit complicated for some.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing viruses here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

WWW. Weird Wild Web Goes Nutty

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Every day new reports of another flaw and another breach. Today we learn attacks rise 33 percent. I’m not surprised.

Credit card details of 19,000 Brits have been found on a cached Google page, where they had been accidentally published by fraudsters. Silly criminal hackers need to tighten up their data security controls and not publish sensitive data like that!

Reuters reports – Fraud on the Internet reported to U.S. authorities increased by 33 percent last year, rising for the first time in three years, and is surging this year as the recession deepens, federal authorities said.

Internet fraud losses reported in the United States reached a record high $264.6 million in 2008, according to a report released on Monday from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, run by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

CNBC reports Online scams originating from across the globe—mostly from the United States, Canada, Britain, Nigeria and China—are gathering steam this year with a nearly 50 percent increase in complaints reported to U.S. authorities in March alone.

About 74 percent of the scams were through e-mail messages last year, especially spam, while about 29 percent used websites. But criminals were increasingly tapping new technologies such as social networking sites and instant messenger services.

The report highlights one new ‘significant’ identity-theft scam involving e-mail messages that give the appearance of originating from the FBI but seek bank account information to help in investigations of money being transferred to Nigeria.

Recipients of the e-mails are told they could be richly rewarded by cooperating. Duh.

Criminal hackers are going hog wild.

Invest in identity theft protection and secure your PC with anti-virus protection such as McAfee

Meanwhile two scumbag criminal hackers are arrested while spying on children between the ages of 14 and 17 using the child’s personal Web cam. The degenerates worked together to extort money from teenagers in exchange for stolen images.

They allegedly gained access to computers using a variety of e-mail addresses and screen names.

Conficker is spawning new hacks such as Scareware as Scammers are taking advantage of the huge interest in the impending “activation” of the Conficker superworm by poisoning search engine results.

Washington Post reports experts have discovered a security hole in the computer code that powers the Conficker worm, an aggressive contagion that has spread to more than 12 million Microsoft Windows systems worldwide.

Stay tuned…

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discusses credit card scams here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Identity Theft Expert; Anatomy of a Hack

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

There is a battle going on round the clock, between the bad hackers and the good hackers. Most of the time, the good guys lose. Here we have an example of the bad guy actually getting caught.

At age 19, an Israeli criminal hacker named Ehud Tenebaum made news as “The Analyzer,” (a great tag for a criminal hacker) after he cracked and penetrated the Pentagon, NASA and even Hamas computer networks.

He then went silent and is believed to have embarked on a 10 year long international conspiracy to hack networks of United States and Canadian banks and other financial institutions. Losses are estimated at $10-12 million.

The Analyzer’s hacking technique is believed to be “SQL injection,” a tactic that I’ve blogged about previously, which exploits vulnerabilities in software development.

A forensic analyst who investigated breaches in both countries found a common thread in each hack. Servers in Virginia owned by HopOne, an ISP, were used as a routing point, receiving their commands from another set of servers at a Dutch hosting company.

Here’s where Big Brother is watching, and in this case, for good reason.

Last spring, US investigators working with Dutch authorities requested that all data traffic from the Dutch servers on route to Virginia be intercepted through wiretapping and provided to authorities.

During this time, criminal hackers from all over the world used the stolen data to create ATM white cards and prepaid gift cards loaded with cash. They withdrew cash from ATMs on three continents to the tune of approximately $450,000.

According to Wired, the wiretapped traffic included email discussions between numerous criminal hackers, regarding their accomplishments. One email address,, provided investigators with their smoking gun. The Hotmail address had Ehud Tenebaum’s name and age registered along with it. Not too smart, E.T.

Ehud Tenebaum owned and operated a Canadian computer security company called Internet Labs Secure. One of the IP addresses used to access the Hotmail account was registered to Tenebaum’s business. E.T. phoned home and got caught.

This is one example of high tech organized criminals taking advantage of numerous flaws in the technology we use every day.

Be warned, there are plenty more to take E.T.’s place. Chances are, someone moved right in where he left off.

Invest in identity theft protection. Install and update Internet security software such as McAfee. Check your bank and credit card statements online bi-weekly and make sure to refute unauthorized charges within a 30 to 60 day period.

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Identity Theft Speaker Robert Siciliano discussing credit card hacks here

Identity Theft Speaker; April Fools Day is conficker worm day

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Criminal hackers have created a virus that has slipped into millions of PCs and is set to strike on April Fools day. This is no joke.

So far this year it is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 12 million computers have been compromised by the “Conficker” worm, also known as “Downup,” “Downadup” and “Kido,” possibly considered the largest known global botnet.

Microsoft and others are in a 24/7/365 battle with the makers of Conficker to see who ends up at the finish line first.

None of the PCs infected with Conficker are displaying any of the characteristics generally exhibited by the recent spate of viruses, offering a remote control component and often used to host spoofed websites and other malicious fraud related activities. At least not yet.

If Conficker reaches its full potential, it will result in data breaches, credit card fraud and numerous forms of identity theft.

It has been widely believed that Conficker is waiting for its next set of updates on April 1st, to unleash the endgame its writers had in mind.

The sense among security professionals is that Conficker will unleash an uncontrollable fury not yet seen or experienced by the security community.

Conficker duplicates like viruses of old and infects PCs that are unpatched and outdated. The virus scans the Internet, seeking and infecting unpatched computers. Conficker was built with encryption pirated from an MIT researcher and has the ability to circumvent anti-virus programs.

This level of technology has the ability to slip into external hard drives, thumb drives and any memory based peripheral. When that same peripheral is plugged into another PC, that PC is also infected.

Many PCs in Asia have rogue versions of Windows, and are largely unpatched due to Microsoft not allowing updates.

Update your Microsoft Windows ASAP. Make sure you have up to date Internet security software, such as McAfee. Stay away from rogue websites and be careful what you click.

As stated in a previous post, Microsoft offered a global bounty for the arrest and prosecution of whoever created and released the Conficker virus.

Even with the security community vigorously trying to defend PCs globally, in early March, millions of Conficker-infected PCs were upgraded into a peer to peer network, which makes the botnet even more dangerous by giving each infected PC commanding authority over others. This means that every PC has the capability of running every other PC on the botnet.

The anticipation among researchers leading up to April 1st is much like that which was felt prior to midnight on December 31st, 1999. The Y2K ”bug” was considered a ticking time bomb for all major computer applications.

Much has been done to avert a Conficker disaster, but nobody knows for sure what will happen. April 1st is a day of foolery, but this year it may also be a major breakthrough for hackers, good or bad, to see who is top dog.

See Robert Siciliano, identity theft speaker, discussing viruses in peripherals here.

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

Identity Theft Prevention is a People Problem

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Every week we learn of a new hack, another breach, credit cards stolen and another identity theft victim.

Many have blamed the bad guy or criminal hackers for all the problems we have in the security world. And while the bad guy is certainly a problem, they are a small part.

The people responsible for their own physical or computer security or the security of others are often the guilty.

You wonder why your credit card company sent you a new card? Because some baboon didn’t do his job and your were compromised.

Chances are we could look at 7 out of 10 data breaches and point to someone who didn’t properly flip a switch or lock a door.

Recent studies polling companies with 1000 or more employees when asked to define the most important measures for protecting confidential data, nearly half of all respondents said, “communicating and training users on confidential data security policies.”

And when asked to rate their organizations performance with regard to, “communicating and training users on confidential data security policies,” more than one-fourth of security professionals gave their organization a rating of either “fair” or “poor.”

North Americans ranked 24% as being “poor” while Europeans ranked 38%. I suspect the North Americans are just lying and are just as lax. I read the papers and see the data. Pleeeeze. I have my eye on you Focker.

Security is not entirely an IT problem. There are many “to-dos”, policies in place regarding physical security that must be observed. And if followed properly, would reduce many of the breaches we see.

One plain and simple example is dumpster diving. How prevalent are shredders? I’ve gone though 4. Besides the copy machine or your desk/laptop, a shredder should be the most used home/office appliance.

Here is an infuriating video of a dumpster diver here, also a security professional who spent 3 minutes in the dumpster of a local bank. He found a laptop, wire transfers and Social Security Numbers. That’s not an IT problem. That’s a stupid-lazy-people problem.

How is anyone supposed to feel secure and protect their identity when others are responsible for our security? The fact remains we are an open sore and idiots keep pouring salt in the wounds.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Idiots who didn’t secure a wireless connection and exposed 45 million credit cards Here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information.

A Day In The Life of A Scammer

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

How can I get you to believe me? What can I say or do to convince you I’m legit? What methods should I use to pull it off?

I don’t have a job. I’m essentially unemployed. However I do have a career. And it involves figuring out ways to get others to pay me. Every day I perform tasks to bring eye balls to what I’m offering, selling or trying to get. What is this vocation? Scammer.

I work all over the world, I travel and meet interesting people. I like what I do, every day is a new and exciting opportunity.

There’s a sucker born every minute. Today I’m looking for you. And I’ll find you.

All day, every day my one goal is to get you to part with your hard earned dollars and here is ONE DAYs worth of reports of my activities:

Scammers Hawk Man’s House On Craigslist

Man who owns a rental home in Dennisport found scammers offering up his home for rental on the Web site …

Online Scammers Creating Fake Local News to Attract Your Clicks …

Transferring money for someone else

If you agree to take part, the scammer could use your account details to clean out your savings.

Great way to steal an identity. But there are ways to protect yourself.

Scammers customize news to deliver you malware
The scammers are using IP address geolocation techniques to figure out what city the recipient lives in and are localizing the fake bomb news to that …

Scammers using Twitter To Get Your Information
The SC Department of Consumer Affairs is warning twitter users to be on the lookout for scams, particularly phishing scams.

Scammers target animal lovers in classified ads
This time, the scammers lure in their victims with the offer of cute pets to tug at their heartstrings. “A lot of them get placed online,”

Officials say scammers taking advantage of people seeking jobs in …
State officials are warning about scams affecting those seeking jobs during the current economic downturn. State officials are warning about scams …

Stimulus Money Scammers Target Families
As soon as the government’s big stimulus package was approved, scammers got on the internet and started trying to get their hands on the money. …

Art Dealers Accused of Rigging Appraisal
He was the consummate con man. He created this image that he had a huge collection of wonderful paintings. The impression given, and taken, was that he was …

Scams abound, costing locals tens of thousands The …
The victim is approached by the con man holding a wallet or bag containing cash. The con man shows the money to the victim and asks if it belongs to her, a way of breaking the ice to set up the scam…

More than 1000 women conned by rogue marriage agency
ONE woman was conned into offering her life savings, while another was duped into sleeping with a man by a rogue marriage agency specializing in foreign …

Lightning rod scam zaps local elderly couple
Officials fear the lightning rod installer may be scamming other elderly couples so they’re urging

Residents Effected By Scammers Washing Checks
“They take that check thats made out to CPL has your signature on … they wash off the amount and the to thats where it becomes check washing. …

I worked hard today. Its a hard way to make an easy living. But it was fun and always funny to see you get all bent out of shape when I read about you in the news. Tomorrow is another day, and another scam.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing Scams Here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information

Fake IDs, Fake Passports Easy To Make or Buy

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert

Fake IDs aren’t just a tool to get in a bar, they are a significant threat to personal security and national security.

Who in their teens and college years didn’t have a fake ID? I did.

At 17, I was 23! That meant I could buy alcohol, go to bars and take others to “R” rated movies. It also meant I was a ROCK STAR. For a minute.

A friend of mine peeled apart Massachusetts IDs and melted crayons together to create colors that matched the IDs colors. He would apply the crayon to the face of the ID and alter the persons age. For example if you were born in 1968, he would color the left side of the 8 the same color as the ID making it a 3. 1963 gave you five extra years to party!!

Then he’d just seal it back up and voila! You were a ROCK STAR.

CNN reported the Government Accountability Office did a test. An investigator used a fake ID to get a real passport. Once he had the passport he bought an airline ticket and went through security. How stupid big is that hole in security?

Former DHS Secretary Chertoff said, and I agree; “I’m going to submit to you that in the 21st Century, the most important asset that we have to protect as individuals and as part of our nation is the control of our identity, who we are, how we identify ourselves, whether other people are permitted to masquerade and pretend to be us, and thereby damage our livelihood, damage our assets, damage our reputation, damage our standing in our community.”

The problem here is the speed of technology has far outpaced the security of our identifying documents. Anyone with a computer, scanner, printer, laminators and for crying out loud CRAYONS can create breeder documents getting real IDs.

This makes it very difficult to prevent identity theft when anyone can be you any time.

What contributes to the problem is there are thousands of variations of birth certificates, dozens of social security cards and a couple hundred different drivers’ licenses in circulation. Very little security and no significant standards preventing counterfeiting. I’m sure plenty will argue this point with me, however the fact remains, fake IDs are everywhere.

Identity theft protection becomes very difficult.

While technology certainly exists to properly identify and authenticate through numerous technologies, privacy advocates and ignorant politicians will fight till the death to prevent their implementation for 2 reasons; 1. Cost, which is a naive argument. 2. Privacy issues.

Cost; spend whatever it takes to properly identify and authenticate. Privacy; is DEAD. Security is the issue we need to be concerned about. Manage out circumstances and tighten things up. The UAE has an “Identity Card” in place that is the best active solution I’m aware of.

There are hundreds of solutions being proposed every day, but cost and privacy continue to creep up. One argument some have is technologies such as RFID and biometrics are the equivalent to the Mark of The Beast. That just goes right over my head.

The Real ID Act has been passed, slammed and revisited. It is the first step towards effective authentication. Fight it as you might, its coming.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discusses Identity Theft and the rampant use of Social Security numbers Here

I’m excited to work with uni-ball in 2009 in a partnership to help raise awareness about the growing threat of identity theft and provide tips for protecting yourself. Check out for more information

Neighborhood Identity Thieves From Hell

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert Speaker

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Unfortunately your enemies could be living in your home or across the street. As the economy tanks, people get desperate and thieves victims become those in their lives.

With all the hullabaloo about criminal hackers and identity thieves organizing as webmobs from all over the world, people often forget that it’s the people in our lives that are the closest to us who often perpetrate these crimes.

Especially in tough times, identity thieves could be someone in your inner trusted circle. I’ve consulted on stories where the dad stole his child’s identity. Those closest to us at home or work have direct access to our data.

“Familiar” Identity theft happens because the thief goes through a process of rationalizing their ability to commit the crime. The process is often referred to as the “Fraud Diamond”.

First they have Incentive. They say “I want to or have a need to commit this crime”. Next is Opportunity. They see a hole or weakness in the system they can easily exploit. And of course Rationalization; “I have convinced myself it is worth the risks”. Lastly, Capability; they determine they are the right person for the job and can pull off the scam.

Here a local neighborhood was terrorized by a drug addicted mom and dad who had a penchant for technology and used their skills to feed their habit.

Much of the crimes they committed could have been prevented.

1. Get a credit freeze or fraud alert
2. Invest in a locking mail box
3. Shred all throwaway paper work
4. Turn off the paper
5. Turn on WPA security for your wireless network
6. Pay attention to all your statements and refute unauthorized charges
7. As a national spokesperson for uni-ball, I recommend using a uni-ball® pen, which contains Uni “Super Ink” formula, to write checks and sign important documents. This specially-formulated ink won’t wash out and protects against check washing. Those closest to you have access to your canceled checks and can rewrite to themselves.

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker Expert discussing family identity theft Here