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Tips to Protect Your Identity from Cyber Thieves

There are several tried and true ways that you can use to protect yourself from ID theft, and some of them you might have never even considered:
Check Your Passwords – Every online account you have should have a different password. Never use the same password for more than one account. You can easily fix this issue by using a password manager. Also, don’t use specific words/phrases or keyboard sequences when creating passwords. A password manager can even generate passwords for you.

Don’t Post Personal Information on Social Media – This including things like your kid’s school or teacher, the town your parents live in, your pet’s name, or even where and when you are going on vacation. Cyber thieves can use this information to guess passwords.

Ignore Any Email from People You Don’t Know – If you get emails from people you don’t know that have a link or attachment, never, ever click or open them.

Put a Password on Your Phone – This way, if your phone is lost or stolen, you don’t have to worry.

Shred Important Documents – Anything that comes in that has personal information, that would go in the rubbish, should be shredded. This includes credit cards bills and medical records.

Never Give Your Social Security Number Out – Unless you absolutely have to, you should not give up your Social Security number. Just because someone asks for it, that doesn’t mean they actually need it, or you should hand it over. That said, I give up my social all the time. But only on documents or applications that absolutely require it.

Check Out Your Credit Report Each Year – Every year, or every quarter, you can get access to your credit report for free. Check it out when you can to make sure it’s accurate.

Inspect Your Statements – Look for anomalies or unauthorized transactions. This includes any banking and credit card statements, and you should do this each month.

Get a Locking Mailbox – A locking mailbox is available at most big box hardware stores or online.  Or pay for a PO Box.

Stop Your Mail When You Travel – You should also stop your mail delivery when you take a long trip.

Freeze Your Credit – Consider freezing your credit. This will stop an ID thief from opening new accounts in your name.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

Synthetic Identity Theft: What Is It?

You might know what identity theft is. It’s when someone takes someone else’s personal and private information so that they can get something out of it…namely, money. What you might not know is what synthetic identity theft is. The goal is the same, but it’s a little different.

Synthetic Identity Theft

In the case of synthetic identity theft, a person makes up a new and fake identity by mixing up information from a real person with information that they create. You might not immediately see that this is a bad thing, but it can be pretty devastating.

Here are three ways that hackers can create a synthetic identity:

They Can Create a New Credit Profile

By far, the most common way that the bad guys use a synthetic identity is to create a new credit profile. Basically, they use a valid Social Security number, which they take from the victim, and pair it with a made-up name. Then, they start applying for credit with this information. Typically, these applications will get denied, but during this process, a credit profile is created. Even with poor credit, there are companies that give credit to people with bad credit, so the hackers know they can get a few hundred dollars out of this which can turn into a few thousand dollars or more.

They Can Piggyback

Another thing that people do with synthetic identity is a practice known as the piggyback. At a basic level, they look for individuals with great credit, and then they access their account. When they do this, they add a fake person as an authorized user. However, they don’t use this account. Instead, they bide their time and let it sit. While they wait, the major credit card agencies create a report of this synthetic identity, and the criminal hacker can use this new, great credit profile to apply for loans and credit cards.

They Practice Data Furnishing

Finally, they might use data furnishing. This is an effective, sophisticated method, and it requires someone else to help. Basically, the hacker needs access to someone like a manager or a small business owner from an established business. The company is already well-known, and it is approved to offer info on their customers…which they give to the hackers. A setup like this takes several months to set up, but once it is established, it can make the thieves a lot of cash.

Currently, it’s difficult to pinpoint how much financial impact these synthetic identities have, although it is thought that it could be billions of dollars in losses. For someone who gets into the business of identity theft, this could mean billions of dollars. Thankfully, there are a number of things that you can do to protect yourself, including being careful about what type of information you are sharing, especially when it comes to social media. Also, consider a credit freeze and ID theft protection, and make sure that you check your credit report regularly.

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

How Much Do You Know About Identity Theft?

You would think with all of the attention on the news out there about hacking, data breaches, and identity theft, that people would be very focused on privacy and protecting their information from the bad guys.

Identity Theft Awareness Check

We all have a lot going on, and identity thieves know this. Always watching, these guys are betting on us being too focused with our day to day lives to notice who we are ultimately sharing our important information with. They literally are waiting for us to make one wrong move.

Are You a Victim of Identity Theft?

The shocking truth is that most of the people who become victims of identity theft don’t even realize it. You could be a victim right now and be none the wiser.

Why? Because generally, a person doesn’t know if they are a victim until they get a notification from their bank or other financial institution Each year, there are more than 16 million people who have their identity stolen.

How is it possible to share your information so easily? Well, there are a couple of ways to do it. For instance, you might have gotten married, you may give away too much information on your social media accounts, or you might have replied to a fake email, phone call, or text.

On top of this, a major life event can put you at a higher risk of becoming a victim, such as getting a new job or having a baby.

How Dangerous is Identity Theft?

Most of us consider identity theft to just be something like credit card fraud, but it is a lot more than that. Though this is common, an identity thief can do a lot more than simply open up a credit card in your name. They can also:

  • Open up a bank account and make changes to your billing address, meaning you would have no idea.
  • Taking out a big loan, such as an auto loan or mortgage, and not paying it off.
  • File a fake tax return, and then taking the money that comes from it.

If you are a victim of identity theft, you might be dealing with it for a number of years to come, and it is a big struggle to clear your name and fix your credit score.

How to Protect Yourself

Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft. Some of them include:

  • Don’t give your Social Security Number out unless it is totally necessary
  • Don’t allow mail to sit around
  • Don’t respond to any requests for information that seems suspicious
  • Don’t create simple passwords for online accounts

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

When its Tax Time, Protect Your Identity

Tax time comes around every year, and though you technically have until April 15th each year, if you can, file earlier. There is a good reason for this; you can avoid putting yourself in a position to get your identity stolen.

How Filing Your Taxes Can Compromise Your Identity

Robert Siciliano, CSP, SAFR.MEYou might be wondering how you can become a victim of an identity thief just by filing your taxes. There are a couple of ways scammers do this. First, the thief will use your Social Security number to file taxes, but plug in their mailing address and then when your refund comes around, they take your refund.

The second way that a scammer can steal your identity is that they take your Social Security number, get a job with it, and the employer will report their earnings to the IRS. When this happens, the IRS sees it as very suspicious, and you could get stuck paying a huge tax bill.

In both cases, there could be big problems ahead for you. For example, you might not be able to get a refund or even file your taxes. There is also the chance that they have used your Social Security number to get a loan, a credit card, or cash.

How Thieves Access Your Information

The main question you might be thinking here is this: how would an ID thief get your Social Security number in the first place? Typically, they would do this by hacking. For example, there was the huge Equifax hack. 145 plus million people were affected, and you could have been involved in it. It’s easy, when these breaches happen, hackers bathe in your information.

What Can You Do if You are a Victim?

If you are a victim of a scam like this, there are some things you can do:

  • Submit Letter 5071C to the IRS – This is a form that the IRS will send if your tax return looks suspicious.
  • Submit Form 14039 – This form alerts the IRS that you believe you are a potential victim of tax ID theft.
  • Ask for an Identity Protection PIN – The IRS will give you this number so that it can confirm your identity for your future tax returns.
  • Make a Report to the Federal Trade Commission – You also should file a report with the FTC by going to IdentityTheft.gov.
  • Contact the Tax Office in Your State – Your state’s tax office might have other recommendations based on your personal situation.

If you have tried to file your taxes electronically and get rejected, you should still file a return by mail. Additionally, call the IRS Identity Protection Unit for assistance. An agent can help you start the process of taking care of the problem and ensuring your return is filed correctly.

Written by Cyber Security Expert Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now#1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

The Ultimate Guide to Spotting Fake News

Do you know when something is “fake news?” If you have half a brain, you should. However, when someone in authority makes a claim, the masses who elected that person into that authoritative position, automatically trust what has been said and spread that fake news. That needs to stop. My mother one said believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see. And today no matter what, don’t automatically believe what you read.

fake newsThere has been a lot of talk about fake news since the 2016 presidential election, and a lot of controversy from those who spread fake stories for the purpose of influencing hearts and minds and of course the outcome of the election. This is dangerous for dozens of reasons, many of which threaten our democracy and in many cases can lead to people getting killed which has happened many times this year.

Keep in mind that not all people who spread or start fake news stories are propagandists, some are thieves and even more are advertisers. Some people just want you to come to their website so they can get clicks and traffic. Advertisers use fake news, as a way to get more clicks. This isn’t really dangerous to you, but someone is getting money because you are clicking on their site.

Other people use fake news, too, including those who want to facilitate identity theft. There are fake news sites that you click on, and then when you visit the site, you get a virus. From there, a hacker can get access to your personal information including your logins and passwords, bank account information, or even your Social Security number.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Use common sense when looking at fake news stories. If it sounds too sensational, it probably is fake.
  • If a story is an obvious parody, it’s also obviously a fake news story.
  • If you already know some of the facts of the story, and something seems weird about the story you are reading, it’s very possible that the news is fake.
  • Look at the URL where the story is found. If it looks strange, the story is likely fake. For example, if you see a URL ending with “.com.co,” it’s a website from Colombia.
  • If there is a photo and the photo looks fake, the story is likely fake, too. But, this isn’t always the case.
  • Don’t just automatically trust.
  • The main stream media has been vilified over the past four years. And while their news is often “biased”, it’s not fake. It’s based on fact, but again those facts may be slanted in favor of the readership. Fake and biased are definitely not the same thing.

Look Closer at the Photos

Many fake news stories have photos that accompany them. Here’s how to test if a realistic photo is accompanying a fake news story.

  • Take a screenshot of the photo, making sure to exclude any graphics that are not relevant.
  • Open Google Images.
  • Upload or drag the screen shot to the search area in Google Images.
  • You will then see information about the “best guess” for the image. If the information doesn’t correlate to the story, you are probably reading a fake news story.

You can use this trick in other ways, too. For instance, if you do online dating, you can see if the person you are talking to is actually who they say they are. If not, they are a faker.

Additionally, you can do this with any image that you have. If the Google Image search gives you information that doesn’t correlate with what you think it does, it is likely a scam. Keep in mind that crooks like identity thieves often steal images and use them as their own.

When you are in doubt, it is always best to do a search on the item to see if other news sources are reporting on it, too. If the only place the story is seen is on a no-name site, you should suspect that it’s fake. If it’s not also being reported by the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, it’s probably fake.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Is the Term “ID Theft Protection” a Lie?

If you work for an IT security company, especially in the marketing department, listen up: the phrase “Identity theft protection” is definitely way overused and sometimes abused as a term for marketing. We know that this term is used to sell products and services, but do all products and services that weave in the term ID theft protection really protect people from ID theft? No. Definitely not.

ID TheftThere is really no difference than labeling a food product as being “natural,” even though it is not “organic.” In the best case, the info is incorrect, and at the worst, it is miss leading and an outright lie.

Any business with any type of security solution claims that it can protect people’s identities. However, firewalls do not protect anyone from getting their identity taken. The same lie is told when a company marketing a thumb drives that’s encrypted, antivirus software, or even alerts for phishing scams. While all these things may help or assist and even facilitate at some level the process of protecting an identity, they are not ID theft protection. They just aren’t.

Only services that truly monitor your identity should call themselves ID theft protection services. They do this by checking up on your credit, and then scanning the internet for any type of sensitive information. These companies also look for things like you Social Security number online, and if there is a problem, they can help you fix it. And there is generally an insurance component that works towards fixing or reimbursing funds lost as a result of stolen identities.

If you currently have ID theft protection, you may get an email that looks similar to this every month:

We have been checking your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, and we are happy to let you know that we did not notice any new activity. As a user of our services, we will continue to check your credit report every day for your protection. We help to protect you from any financial hassles and losses that could lead to identity theft. You can log into our website and review your status 24/7. Please click here and enter your username and password to get started. As always, our team is ready to help if you notice any suspicious activity.

This is exactly what you should expect when you choose to get ID theft protection. Do not fall for any type of fancy marketing terms. This is what ID theft protection should include:

  • Alerts: This is a warning system that notifies you when your personal info might be at risk
  • Monitoring: Constantly monitoring your privacy, identity, and credit information
  • Recovery: Experts help should your identity be compromised. They should offer 24/7 recovery service to take care of calls, paperwork, and other details.

Make sure that you are doing your research and don’t believe what you read. Instead, take the time to really understand what you are spending your money on.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program.

Protect Your Identity From Thieves

There are tried and true ways to protect yourself from identity theft—ways that you may not have even considered.

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 by investing in a password manager software. Avoid using actual words or names, or keyboard sequences. Password managers facilitate the password creation process.

Never post anything personal on social media.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.

Ignore e-mails whose senders you don’t know. Never click links in e-mails or open attachments you’re not expecting.

Set your phone up with a password. If it’s lost or stolen, you’ll have no worries.

Shred everything. All your credit card offers, medical records and other personal information before tossing.

Never give it out your Social Security number unless it’s absolutely mandatory like a credit application. However, just because someone says they can’t process your request without your SSN doesn’t mean you must hand it over. The objective is to minimize how much your SSN is “out there.”

Request your free credit report every year from the three major credit reporting bureaus. Refute unauthorized accounts immediately.

Inspect your statements such as credit card and banking statements every month for suspicious activity.

Use a locking mailbox or have your mail delivered to the post office and pick up.

Stop mail delivery when taking long trips.

Get a credit freeze. This is a no brainer to protect you from new account fraud.

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 CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity and Personal Protection security awareness training program and the home security expert for Porch.com

It’s Tax Time: Play it Safe or Lose Your Identity

Once again, tax time has rolled around, and though you technically have until April 15th, it’s always best to file a bit earlier…especially if you want to avoid setting yourself up for ID theft.

How Could Filing Taxes Compromise Your Identity?

Here’s how you could become a victim of ID theft just by filing your taxes: the first method is that a thief uses your Social Security number to file taxes, and then they steal your refund. The second method that they use is they take your Social Security number, get a job while using your Social Security number, and then their employer reports that income to the IRS. When that happens, the IRS gets your return, flags it as suspicious, and you could get a big tax bill in the process.

Of course, in either case, you could face some big problems. You could, for instance, be unable to file your own tax return or collect your refund…at least for a while until the IRS sorts it out. You also might find that the thief has used your Social Security number to get credit cards, loans, or other cash that will wreck your credit.

How do Thieves Get Your Information?

The big question here is this: how do the ID thieves get your Social Security number in the first place? Generally, they do it by hacking. For instance, do you remember the Equifax hack from 2017? Millions of people were affected, and you, too, could have been involved in that. It’s possible that thieves could get your Social Security info from hacks just like this one.

What to Do if You are a Victim

If you learn that you are a victim of tax ID theft, there are some things that you can do.

  • Fill out Letter 5071C – This is a form that the IRS sends if it feels like your tax return is suspicious.
  • Fill out Form 14039 – This form alerts the IRS that you believe you are a victim or potential victim of tax ID or regular ID theft.
  • Get an Identity Protection PIN – This is a number that the IRS can give you to confirm your identity on any future returns.
  • Report to the Federal Trade Commission – You should also file a report at IdentityTheft.gov to alert the FTC of the situation.
  • Contact your state’s tax office – Also, make sure to contact the tax office in your state. It might have other recommendations for you.

If you have tried to e-file and get a rejection, you should still file a paper return via mail. Also, call the IRS Identity Protection Unit for help. An agent can get you started on taking care of the issue and make sure your taxes are filed appropriately.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

What is Synthetic Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when a person steals another person’s private and personal information, generally to make money from it. You probably already knew this, but have you heard of synthetic identity theft? This is a bit different.

With synthetic identity theft, a person creates a new and very fake identity by combining the real information from a person with made-up information. You might not think this is a big deal, but it can be very bad for anyone who has their identity stolen.

Here are three ways that ID thieves can create synthetic identities:

Creating a New Credit Profile

The most common way to create a synthetic identity is to create a new credit profile using the victims SSN but a different name. Basically, they apply for credit using these fake identities. Generally, the application will be denied, but in the process, it creates a credit profile. Then, they can apply to companies that cater to people with poor or no credit. Though the card limits are typically small, less than $500, it still gives them money.

The Piggyback

Another thing that people do to create a synthetic identity is the piggyback. Basically, they look for people who have good credit, and then add a fake person as an authorized user to the account. They do not use the account, however. Instead, they let it sit for a few months. The credit agencies create a report of the synthetic identity, who now has an excellent credit rating and can get high limit credit cards.

Data Furnishing

The third tactic is called data furnishing. This is quite effective and sophisticated and requires the participation of someone from some type of business. Basically, they need a small business owner or manager who is willing to help with this fraud. The company is already vetted and is then approved to offer information on customers. They allow fake IDs, or synthetic identities, for malicious duties. This generally takes several months to set up, but the thieves can make a ton of money.

Right now, it’s hard to really pinpoint the financial impact of what these synthetic identities have, though it is believed that it has caused billions in losses. That means, however, for an ID thief, there are billions to be made. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to protect yourself including being very careful about the information you are sharing, especially on social media. Also, make sure you have a credit freeze and identity theft protection and that you are regularly checking your credit report.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.

Louisiana Woman Tries to Buy a Million Dollar Home with False Documents

Have you ever seen a house and thought…I wish I could afford that? Some people actually try it, but let this story be a lesson learned: if you can’t afford the cost of a house, you probably shouldn’t try to buy it.

Robert Siciliano Marriott Breach

Pamela Chandler was arrested and now faces forgery charges after she tried to purchase a home with a million-dollar price tag. How did she do it? She used false documents. Chandler, who also goes as Pamela Goldwyn, was arrested by a special Financial Crimes Task Force in Bossier City, LA. She also has several warrants out for her in Texas with crimes including fraud and the exploitation of certain groups of people including children, the elderly or the disabled. She was booked in jail and was not given a bond, as she is a flight risk.

According to court records, Chandler, who lists her age as 47, has a permanent address in Athens, Texas, but also has addresses in Maryland and Louisiana. A local Bossier City realtor reported her to local law officials after she tried to use illegitimate paperwork to buy the home. She claimed to have a trust fund, but the paperwork just didn’t add up. As the task force began to investigate the situation, it was found that she had also altered a letter from a layer to try to convince the realtor that she had enough in this fake trust fund to buy the home. It was also discovered that she had used a number of aliases over the years. It is believed that she uses an alias in a specific area until law enforcement catches on to her scams, and then changes her name and moves to a new area.

Much of the problem here can be blamed on easily obtained fake IDs. 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.

Some of the department of multivehicle new 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.

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of CreditParent.com, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.