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Business Identity Theft: Beware of Identity Thieving Employees

Wow, a lawyer in Memphis got scammed by his secretary—she embezzled over $362,000 from him, says an article on wreg.com. Attorney Jerry Schatz hired Teresa Sumpter, 48, in July of 2013.

10DLittle did he know that his assistant would end up stealing checks from his trust account, forging her signature on them, and opening three credit cards—all in his name. And she named herself as an authorized user.

And what did this conniving little pill do with the stolen money? Sumpter bought several vehicles, paid some bills and purchased some miscellaneous things.

After her arrest she was charged with six counts of identity theft, two counts of forgery and two counts of theft of property.

So you see, the “bad guy” is sometimes a woman. It happens more often than you think, too. An article at sacbee.com tells the case of Natashia Adams Lugo, 31, whose dirty deeds of identity theft got her a sentence of almost 15 years in a state prison.

Lugo had been employed by Job Journal LLC. Then she was fired. So she decided to get some revenge by using her former employer’s bank checking and routing numbers to polish off $40,000 of personal debt. How could she not have known that her criminal act would easily be traced back to her?

Lugo also stole $17,200 from the Job Journal’s bank account to fund her child support account. Once again, the question blares: How could she have been dumb enough to commit a crime so traceable back to her? Some times these criminals aren’t so savvy, other times they are. Regardless, the employers usually never see the money again.

Prior to the Job Journal employment, Lugo had worked for Balanced Body, which fired her. You guessed it: After being fired, she used the company’s personal identifying information, as well as that from some of its patrons, to steal over $11,000.

Businesses need to beware of firing employees. But the logistics of protecting themselves from these kinds of crimes can be enormous. Big companies can’t close out their bank accounts and open new bank accounts every time someone is fired. Maybe small companies can, that hardly ever fire anyone, but the bottom line is that businesses just have to keep their fingers crossed whenever they give someone the pink slip.

The big thing is to hire forensics accountants to look at your books, frequently. Especially in family owned businesses. Sad, but true.

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

15 Ways to protect your Identity

There are tried and true ways to protect yourself from identity theft—ways that you may not have even considered. Check them out (no specific order): PSH

  1. Evaluate your passwords. Does every online account have a different password or are you using the same one for multiple accounts? Fix this problem immediately.
  2. However, make the new passwords at least eight characters ideally, and include symbols, not just letters and numbers. Avoid using actual words or names, or keyboard sequences. Password-cracking software will easily find shorter passwords that contain words, names and keyboard sequences.
  3. Never post anything personal on social media. Yes, this includes your pet’s name, name of your kids’ school or teacher, where you’re going on vacation, the town your parents live in, etc. I don’t, why do you?
  4. Would you open your door to strangers knocking on it all day long? Of course not. So why would you “answer” e-mails from strangers? Ignore e-mails whose senders you don’t know. If the sender appears to be from a company you do business with, but you never gave them your e-mail, delete it. If they DO have your e-mail but there’s no reason they should be sending you a message, just ignore it.
  5. If that all sounds too confusing, then follow this simple rule: Never click links in e-mails or open attachments you’re not expecting.
  6. If you’re not using Bluetooth on your phone, turn it off.
  7. Set your phone up with a password. If it’s lost or stolen, you’ll have no worries.
  8. Shred all your credit card offers, medical records, billing information and other personal information before tossing.
  9. Memorize your Social Security number. Never give it out unless it’s absolutely mandatory like for a job application. However, just because someone says they can’t process your request without your SSN doesn’t mean you must hand it over. For instance, a major retail chain may tell you they need your Social Security number to issue you a charge card for their store. It’s best to just forego the charge card. The objective is to minimize how much your SSN is “out there.”
  10. Request your free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting bureaus. Refute unauthorized accounts immediately.
  11. Inspect your credit card and banking statements every month for suspicious activity.
  12. Use a locking mailbox or have your mail delivered to the post office and pick up.
  13. Before taking any trips have the post office put a stop on your mail delivery.
  14. Consider getting a credit freeze. Thgis is a no brainer to protect you from new account fraud.
  15. Invest in identity theft protection. There is no cure for identity theft. But with a protection plan in place, the restoration component will fix most of what goes wrong.

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

How to prevent your Pics from being lifted: Part 2 of 2

There are many reasons someone might right-click on your image and “Save image as…”

Porn, Sex and Dating Sites

  • A woman might steal your blog headshot and use it for her dating site profile.
  • A perv might take the picture of your child off your Facebook page and put it on a porn site.
  • A person who runs a racy dating site might take your image and use it to advertise his service.

Scams

  • Someone might use, without your knowledge, a photo of your house for a rental scam.
  • Your motorcycle, jet ski, boat, puppy…you name it…could be used for scam for-classified sale ads.
  • Your avatar may be used for a phony Facebook account to then be posted in the comments section of news articles pitching some get-rich-quick scheme.

Fantasy Lives

  • Your image could be used by a lonely person to create a fictitious Facebook account.
  • A person with a real Facebook account may be so desperate for friends that they use your photo to create a fake account to then add as a friend.
  • Someone you know may steal your photo (such as an ex-lover) and create a social media account in your name, then post things on it that make you look really bad.

How can you protect your digital life?

  • For your social media accounts, make sure your privacy settings are on their highest so that the whole world can’t see your life.
  • Watermark your images so that they have less appeal to image thieves, but keep in mind that they’ll have less appeal to you too.
  • It’s one thing when an image of your house was stolen for a rental scam, but it’s a whole new animal if an image of your naked body or you engaged in a sex act was stolen. So don’t put racy images online. Never.
  • Explain to your kids about the risks of stolen images.
  • Make sure their social media privacy settings are high.
  • It’s possible your smartphone automatically stores pictures you take online. Turn off this feature.

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

Child Identity theft is becoming Solvable

You’ve seen TV commercials and print ads about identity theft, and the “victim” is always an adult. That’s not realistic. The actor-portrayal should be that of a child. Yes, a kid.

Children are 51 times more likely than adults to have their identity stolen, says research from Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab.

Crooks want kids’ Social Security numbers. And crooks like the fact that kids are debt-free. Wow, with no debt to the child’s name, the thief could easily open up a line of credit in that victim’s name and have a field day. Or, they can file a fraudulent income tax return.

The thief can then sit back and relax for many years because usually, the victim doesn’t learn something’s wrong until they’re 18 and applying for loans or a line of credit. By then, lots of damage has already been done.

Many thieves of children’s identity are family members. It’s easy for them to get their hands on the victim’s Social Security number and other data. Relatives coming and going in the victim’s house could make it too simple for someone to get ahold of private information if it’s not hidden and non-accessible.

How can we protect children’s identity from being stolen?

  • If you live in s state that offers a “credit freeze” then apply, right now. As of the writing: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
  • Consider opting out of providing schools with personal information about your child. This can be done due to FERPA: Family Educational Rights Privacy Act. FERPA gives parents the right to authorize how much of their child’s personal information they want shared with a third party.
  • If a school fails to alert parents to this on a yearly basis, the school is breaking the law.
  • The FERPA does not necessarily apply to extracurricular activities of the school. Parents should investigate these on an individual level to see how much private information might be shared. For instance, a child’s Social Security number absolutely does not have to be given just for them to be on a softball team, member of the band, chess club, this or that.
  • Identity theft protection on a family plan should be a consideration. Generally these services will watch for activity regarding your childs SSN and new lines of credit.

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

Protect your Identity when saying “I Do”

7WWho has time to think about identity protection when planning a wedding? And why, for that matter? Well, there’s good reason: Marriage begets a change in identities. The months preceding the big day should be when the couple starts taking action to avoid identity theft.

  • If you’re using any website or smartphone application to organize your wedding, make sure it’s protected with a password—a long password that contains zero clues about your wedding, identity or anything else personal. An ideal password is upper/lowercase, numbers, long and can be remembered without keyboard sequences or actual words or proper names, and includes various symbols. Please, no HoneyBunch1 or St.LuciaWeGo.
  • Health insurance will be merged once you are husband and wife, so make sure that old insurance documentation is eradicated.
  • Wedding preparations involve a lot of spending, right down to the custom made napkins at the dinner reception. Some say pay with currency as much as possible, as checks and credit cards contain information that a thief could obtain. But really, pay with a credit card and closely watch your statements.
  • Make sure nobody can get into your mail box, because it will soon be receiving scads of documents reflecting a woman’s new last name, such as a driver’s license, credit card, Social Security card, to name a few. Get a locking mail box, and maybe have the post-wedding mail delivered to a P.O. box or to your post office and then retrieve it in person.
  • Buy a shredder. This is so that you can destroy all the reams of old documents with the previous surname. This would include old checks, the old ATM card, bank statements, driver’s license, auto insurance information and so much more.
  • Once on the honeymoon make sure your wireless devices that are connected to free WiFi are protected with a VPN to prevent hackers from snooping over free WiFi.

Now ideally, people should have already, long before meeting their soulmate, gotten into the habit of identity protection. This should be an ongoing process—as much ongoing for the chronically single person as for the gushing bride-to-be.

But it’s never too late to establish smart habits for identity protection. You will need to work with your spouse on just how very personal documents will be managed and filed. There are so many things to be aware of, including keeping monthly tabs on your credit card statements and yearly tabs on your credit reports.

And here’s a tip: Don’t assume your young child’s identity can’t be stolen. Crooks are out there stealing the identities of kids—who often don’t learn about this until it’s time to apply for a college loan or a loan for their first car.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

Retirees Prime Targets for Identity Theft

Is it easier for crooks to prey on senior citizens, or is it that most targets are the seniors?

Well, one thing’s for sure: A disproportionate percentage of identity theft complaints come from people 50-plus (though I’m sure some readers would hardly consider 50-somethings to be seniors—but you get the point).

Some scammers go after seniors because they know that many older people have a lot of money saved up. And it’s also no secret that many seniors aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and also are not caught up on technology.

Some common scams that target the elderly:

  • A caller pretending to be “your favorite grandson.” This lures the victim into announcing the name of that grandson, and then the crook identifies himself by that name. If the victim has hearing loss, he can’t tell that the caller’s voice doesn’t sound like his grandson.
  • The caller then gives a sob story and asks Gramps to wire him some money.
  • Retirement home employees access resident records for their Social Security numbers and other data, then sell these to crooks.
  • An e-mail supposedly from the victim’s bank (or IRS or FBI) warns them that something is wrong and that they must act immediately to resolve the issue—and the action involves typing in their Social Security number, bank login information, etc.
  • Scam mortgage companies. These fraudsters will get ahold of applicants’ Social Security numbers, other data and even their deeds to commit identity theft.

How to Help Prevent Identity Theft

  • Some seniors are active on social media. Be very careful what you post on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Don’t post anything that could reveal your location or when you’re away from home.
  • If you’re looking for employment, refuse to take any job in which the “employer” wants you to cash checks through your account or get involved with wire transfers.
  • Don’t keep sensitive information in your wallet/purse.
  • Don’t leave your cell phone, wallet, etc., out in public where some punk could skate by and snatch it.
  • Use a shredder for all personal and financial documents.
  • Automatically delete, without ever opening, e-mails that seem to have come from your bank, the IRS or FBI. Same for e-mails announcing you won a prize or say something very suspicious in the subject line such as “Dear Blessed One” or, “I Need Your Help.”
  • Never conduct financial transactions on a site that has only an “http” in the URL, but instead, an “https” and a yellow lock icon before it.
  • Use Hotspot Shield VPN when on Free WiFi. Free WiFi is often unencrypted and vulnerable to hackers.
  • Make copies of your credit cards and other crucial documents and keep them in an easy-to-remember place in case any of these cards, etc., get stolen or lost, so you can quickly cancel the cards, etc.
  • If you want to mail a letter that contains sensitive data, deposit it at a post office collection box.
  • Believe it or not, crooks will get information out of obituaries to commit identity theft. Leave out details like date of birth, birth town, name of schools, etc., and just note age of passing and give details that an ID thief can’t use, such as, “She loved doing volunteer work with children.”
  • Check your bank and credit card statements every month for suspicious charges.

Retirees don’t have to be victims of fraud as long as they are paying attention to various scams and recognize their responsibilities regarding preventing identity theft. By putting systems in place fraud doesn’t need to happen.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

8 Tips to protect your Money – and your Identity – from Theft

When you hear the dictum, “You should protect yourself from identity theft,” do you equate this with pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with rocks up a hill? It would actually be more accurate to picture slicing into a fresh apple pie, because identity theft protection is as easy as pie. Check out the following things you should do—without breaking any sweat: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-online-risks-sign-road-banner-image34668294

  1. Examine your credit card statements once a month to catch any unauthorized charges. Even a tiny charge should not be blown off, since often, thieves will start out small to “test the waters.” Once they get away with this, they’ll be surfing the big waves if you don’t pounce on them quickly.
  2. Buy a shredder. Don’t rely on tearing up documents with your hands, especially unopened envelopes. A shredder will blitz them to fragments that a “dumpster diver” won’t be able to piece together. Until you get a shredder, use scissors and snip up anything that has sensitive information on it.
  3. Put the names and phone numbers of your credit/debit cards on hardcopy so you’ll have a quick way to contact them should any become stolen.
  4. There are three major credit report bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. At least once a year review your credit reports with them, as they can reveal if, for instance, someone opened a credit card account in your name.
  5. If you ever lose your cell phone, anyone can obtain sensitive data you have stored in it—unless it’s password protected. And please, use a strong, long password, since the thief might be someone who knows you and is capable of sitting there trying all sorts of permutations with your beloved dog’s name, a la Duke1.
  6. Are a lot of your sensitive paperwork and documents in unlocked file cabinets that anyone can get into? The thief could be a visiting family member (yes, family members can be crooked), the cleaning lady, repairman, window guy, dishwasher installer, a visiting neighbor, you name it. A fireproof safe will protect these documents.
  7. All of your computers should have antivirus, antimalware and antispyware software, that’s regularly updated.
  8. Install a virtual private network to encrypt all free WiFi communications. Hostspot Shield is a good example.
  9. Put a freeze on your credit, at least if you don’t plan on applying for any credit lines or loans in the near future; you’ll be blocked until you unfreeze it, but so will thieves.

More on Credit Freezes

  • Freezing is free for ID theft victims; there’s a small charge for non-victims ($15 per credit bureau, which may be for all time, depending on your state’s policies).
  • “Thawing” the freeze (which takes five minutes) is free to victims and up to $5 for non-victims.
  • It will not affect your credit score.
  • It works because they block lenders from seeing your credit scores. So if someone gets your identity, they can’t open credit in your name because lenders need to see those scores.
  • You won’t be able to see your credit reports unless you have a PIN to access them.

Identity theft doesn’t have to be a scary nightmare. As long as consumers follow these basic tips and guidelines they can prevent many forms if identity theft.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.

Most Toxic Superheroes 2015: Super Powers, Super Risky!

The King of Atlantis! The Protector of the Seas and Oceans! A beloved member of the Justice League! It’s none other than Aquaman! While he is most well-known for his ability to control marine animals and breathing underwater, he is also the superhero who poses the biggest threat to you online, according to Intel Security’s list of Most Toxic Superheroes.

Superhero movies and television shows are booming like never before. They have been resurrected and reinvented with the new and improved costume designs and insane special effects we see on the big screen. This superhero craze is drawing in everyone from the youngsters, who tend to idolize the men and women of courage, all the way up to the older generations, who grew up with some form of these heroes, and everyone in between.

With the advancement of technology and accessibility, information on these superheroes can be retrieved online at all times. As a result, adults and kids alike need to be wary of the websites they use when they are accessing information on their favorite characters. While you might not think searching for one’s favorite superhero could be dangerous, you may want to take a step back and use caution before randomly clicking on a potentially harmful website.

Originally introduced as a backup feature in 1941, Aquaman has since become a prominent part in the DC universe, and a founding member of the Justice League. Fans express an admiration for his dual obligation to the citizens of the land and sea, as well as his honorable nature. Other than his abilities to breathe underwater and to control marine animals, he also possesses superhuman strength and impervious skin.

After long being the subject of ridicule for his rather interesting array of superpowers, the Dweller of the Depths himself returns to the top of the annual Most Toxic Superheroes list revealed by using McAfee SiteAdvisor having a risk percentage of 20%, close to that of the 2013 list where he came in first with 18.6%.

The Most Toxic Superheroes list is compiled by using McAfee SiteAdvisor that rates websites by risk level that contain the superhero search terms on the most popular search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!). SiteAdvisor informs you of potentially dangerous websites through color coded levels of risk, from green, to yellow, to red that signal when it is okay to click, and when you should skip a particular website.

This year’s Most Toxic Superheroes are:

MTS_Infographic_2015

Whether you are searching online from your PC or mobile device, here are some tips you can use to help you stay safe:

  • Be suspicious: Be wary of searches that turns up a link to free content or too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Double-check the Web address: Look for misspellings or other clues that the site you are going to may not be safe.
  • Search safely: Use a safe search plug-in, such as McAfee SiteAdvisor software that displays a red, yellow, or green ratings in search results, warning you to potential risky sites before you click on them.
  • Protect yourself: Use comprehensive security software on all your devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™, to protect yourself against the latest threats.

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

Identity Fraud Victim every two Seconds

Yes, identity fraud is SO common that someone becomes a victim every two seconds. The 2014 Identity Fraud Study, as reported on javelinstrategy.com, turned up some alarming results.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-identity-theft-red-words-binary-code-computer-monitor-image39907813Though the dollar amount stolen had decreased over the year preceding the study, the number of victims had increased. People at highest risk were ages 35 to 44.

Account takeover—when the thief takes over a pre-existing account—made up 28 percent of ID fraud losses in 2013. But the greatest risk factor for becoming a victim of identity fraud is the data breach. In that year, 30 percent of people who were notified of a data breach became an ID fraud victim.

Identity fraud is associated with credit cards, but this type of crime can also involve hijacking someone’s PayPal account, or account on Amazon and eBay.

How to Protect Yourself

Javelin Strategy & Research, who conducted the study, recommends the following:

  • Never use public Wi-Fi (at least use a VPN)
  • Shred old sensitive documents.
  • Change the passwords on all of your accounts often.
  • See which accounts offer two-factor authentication, then set it up. This way you’ll know if an unauthorized person is trying to access your account.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software for all of your devices.
  • Monitor your accounts every week. Use mobile apps to stay on top of them.
  • Use direct deposit for payroll checks.
  • Don’t permit your Social Security Number to be used as an authenticating factor, because it can’t be changed, like a username or password can. Ninety-six percent of major credit card issuers and 80 percent of the top 25 banks will permit access to an account via the SSN. You should inform the institution to notate that you will never provide this number to verify your identity.
  • Arrange for your financial institutions to send you alerts (e-mail, text, phone call) when anomalous activity occurs, such as a purchase made in two countries only a few hours apart, or any purchase over a certain amount. Ask about additional forms of fraud detection as well.
  • If you suspect fraud, immediately report it.

If you receive notification of a data breach, you’re at higher risk for fraud; crack down on monitoring your accounts.

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

Identity Theft Protection 101

What’s it called if, for example, someone runs up your credit card line without your permission? Identity theft. ID theft isn’t necessarily someone going around impersonating you. But it is considered someone taking over your accounts.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-identity-theft-red-words-binary-code-computer-monitor-image39907813Account takeover is also someone hacking into your computer and getting the password for your PayPal account, then sucking it dry. ID theft is an extremely common occurrence. The damage incurred by ID theft runs along a continuum, from light to heavy. At its worst it can:

  • Cost thousands of dollars to repair the fallout
  • Take months to fix this
  • Destroy reputation
  • Cause difficulty finding employment
  • Cause rejection of loan applications
  • Cause the victim to be arrested because the identity thief committed a crime in their name

There are tons of ways one can become a victim. It used to be that ID thieves would steal a wallet and gain information that way, or dig through your rubbish for bank statements. But these days, ID theft is prolifically committed in cyber space by thieves thousands of miles away.

For example, a thief halfway around the globe could trick you into giving your bank account information by sending an e-mail that looks like it’s from your bank, telling you that your online account has been compromised and that you need to supply your account information to repair the problem.

Or, clicking on a link that promises to show you a nude celebrity instead downloads a virus to your computer.

ID theft can also occur through no lapse in judgment of your own: when the retailer you buy things from with a credit card is hacked.

Protect Yourself

  • All of your computer devices should have software: antivirus, antimalware and a firewall, and always updated.
  • Educate yourself on recognizing scams. Some are ingenious and look legitimate. One way to drastically reduce the odds of being tricked by a ruse is to never, never, never click on any links in an e-mail. Never.
  • Make all of your passwords unique, over 10 characters and a mix of numbers, letters and symbols: gibberish rather than the name of your favorite rock band or sport.
  • View your credit report (it’s free) once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Look for odd things like new accounts opened that you never opened and other false information.
  • If you’re sure you won’t be applying for a loan for a long time, freeze your credit.
  • Use only reputable merchants for online shopping when possible (we all know this rule doesn’t apply when you want to buy those big clumpy home-baked chocolate cookies from “Denise’s Gourmet Cookies”).
  • Missing snail mail bills? Report this to the associated companies because a thief may have changed your billing address.
  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network such as Hotspot Shield is one significant layer to protect your data and your identity by encrypting your information.

Consider it a red flag if you receive credit cards you didn’t apply for, especially if they have high interest rates.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.