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Tips for Preventing Embezzlement and Employee Theft

If you are a business owner, you might be concerned about employee theft. If you aren’t concerned, perhaps you should be.

There are a number of ways that an employee can steal:

  • Embezzlement money, inventory or materials
  • Skimming – Diverting funds
  • Stealing business opportunities, data or trade secrets
  • Fraudulent disbursements like check tampering or billing schemes
  • Larceny – absolute theft

It might surprise you to find out that employees who steal are not usually new employees. Instead, they are those who have worked for a business for a number of years. (Three years is the average.) So, what can you do to protect your company from employee theft? Here are some ideas:

Watch Your Staff

You should be aware of the signs of theft. These include:

  • A sudden devotion to their work and/or the company
  • Working late
  • Living above their salary
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Evidence of gambling, bad check writing, or persistently asking to borrow money
  • A second job with materials available at your business
  • Strong objections to changes in inventory, financial, or supply procedures

Small businesses should always do background checks on any potential hire. Checking references is one thing, but to really understand who you are hiring, a full background check is best.

Supervise Employee Behavior

Research shows that employees are more likely to commit acts of fraud and theft when they don’t have a lot of supervision. You don’t have to supervise them constantly, but you should check on them often. It also is a good idea to have more than one person in charge of company finances.

Control All Business Receipts

Use pre-numbered sales slips and audit them frequently. This is especially the case with cash. You should not rely on a sales clerk to count and audit these receipts. Have another person do it.

Use Random Auditing

Start doing unannounced audits internally, and hire an outside company to do a yearly audit.

Use Purchase Orders

You should also use purchase orders and make sure that these are not handled by the same people over and over. It’s best to use pre-numbered purchase orders, and then always verify any orders coming in.

Keep Track of Business Checks

Use checks that are pre-numbered and make sure the amounts and recipient name is typed or in permanent ink. It’s best to produce checks from software, such as QuickBooks. If you have bank checks, make sure they are locked up.

Install Security Software on Computers

Start using security software on your computers that monitors employee activity, and restrict access to company records. You should also frequently change passwords and ensure that all of your security features are working.

Be Responsible with Accounts Receivable

Ensure that you are recording all of your incoming payments. Make sure incoming checks are marked as “deposit only.” Hire a forensics accountant at least bi-annually. Having a professional come in looking for discrepancies, or “cooked books” is worth every penny.

Use Security Systems with Inventory Management

Keep shipping and receiving as separate functions. Consider using security devices to monitor all inventory and merchandise that is coming in.

Install Security Cameras

Frankly, “trust” is overrated. It’s natural and normal to trust by default. As an “interdependent” species, humans can’t function without inherently trusting one another. But while most people can be trusted, the few that can’t need security cameras pointed at them all day.

Help Employees Report Theft by Their Co-Workers

You should make it as easy as possible for your staff to report theft or fraud by their co-workers. You want to make sure that you are doing this discretely, and you want to make sure that you don’t make it look like you don’t trust your staff.

What to Do if You Suspect Theft

If you have an employee who you think is stealing form you, here’s what you should do:

  • Use extreme caution when conducting your investigations and when making an accusation. If this turns out to be false, it could mean a lawsuit for you.
  • If you have a suspicion, investigate. If you can correctly identify the employee who is responsible, you should terminate their position immediately, revoke all network and building access and then consider contacting the authorities.
  • If theft is a complex or a large issue involving more than one employee, you should talk to a legal professional. They can help find experts who can help.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Understanding and Stopping Criminal Identity Theft

The definition of criminal identity theft is a crime where the criminal impersonates the victim in order to protect their innocence. This can lead to victims getting fines or even getting arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit.

How Does This Happen?

There are a number of ways that a criminal can pull this off, and it generally occurs when the thief steals someone’s identity. This is true and pure identity theft, often involving a drivers license with the thieves picture and the victims information. Once they have that, they are pretty much free to commit crimes in their victim’s name.

Stopping Criminal Identity Thieves

If you think that you are a victim of this crime, you should first get in touch with the police department where the charges are coming from. You should offer proof of your identity, and then fill out an impersonation report. The police will often take a photo, get your fingerprints, and run your ID info through their database. When they prove your innocence, warrants will be released. If you feel like this is a complicated situation, however, it is in your best interest to get a lawyer.

Did Someone Use Your Driver’s License?

If someone has stolen or used your driver’s license, take the following steps:

  1. Get your driver’s license record. You can get this from the DMV.
  2. Identify any inaccurate information from the report.
  3. Report any discrepancies.
  4. Discuss facial recognition with the DMV and if others photos are tied with your information.
  5. Clear all of the discrepancies. The DMV will do this for you after an investigation.

Signs That You Might be a Victim of Criminal Identity Theft

Sometimes you might not realize that you are a victim of criminal identity theft, but here are some signs:

  • Your Social Security Statement may have errors.
  • There will most likely be errors on background checks.
  • You might get fired and told your criminal record is the reason.
  • You might not get a job or apartment due to your false criminal record.

Preventing Criminal Identity Theft

There are some things you can do to make the chances lower that you will become a victim of criminal identity theft:

  • Keep your Social Security number and driver’s license safe and hidden when possible.
  • If you have to get a new credit card and/or driver’s license, make sure the numbers are different. You don’t just want the same number as the thief can still use it.
  • Get a credit freeze and consider identity theft protection.
  • Frankly, be as digitally secure as possible and manage paper records the best you can. But this is a hard crime to stop on your own.
  • Criminal identity theft happens when the victim has done nothing at all to secure their identity

Should You Be Worried About Criminal Identity Theft?

All of this sounds pretty scary, but there is only a very small chance that you would be held liable for any of these crimes. The bigger issue is that someone could victimize you for years, and you would never realize it. It could become a big headache, and it could also create a domino effect that could ultimately tarnish your good name. Preventing identity theft of all kinds is a start, and as long as you know how to fix it if it happens, you should be okay in the end. Don’t worry about it, but do something about it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Protecting Your Parents from Identity Theft

According to statistics, those who are 50-years old and older, like 65-85, are often targets of identity thieves. The bad guys have no issue taking advantage of your parents. They violate their trust, and understand that they are often naïve about the internet and scammy phone callls. Cyber criminals also know that older people have retirement money and more savings, and this money is ready for them to take. Here are some of the common scams that the bad guys use:

Common Scams Against Older People

  • The bad guys might send them an email saying that they are from the IRS, CIA, FBI, or even a bank. The email says that there is a problem that needs the recipient’s attention. The scammers then ask for information like their Social Security numbers, bank account information, and more.
  • Another scam is to pull on their heart strings. In this case, the scammer calls the person and claims to be someone they know, like a grandchild, who needs money wired because it’s an emergency.
  • Scammers also try to take advantage of people by using their home’s information. If they can access the deed of a person’s home, they can use other information, like their bank account number and Social Security number and can refinance the home. Then, of course, they get all of that money and the person living there is none the wiser.
  • Crooks also focus on people in retirement homes. They get a job at these homes, and then manipulate the residents to give them personal information.
  • They seek out the lonely. If your parent is single because of divorce or death they are a target. Loneliness often trumps common sense. There’s a level of desperation that predators seek out.

Preventing Scams Against Your Parents

You probably want to do all that you can to prevent this from happening. Here are some methods you can use:

  • Become the main guardian over the personal information and financial accounts of your parent’s. This way, when your parent is contacted by a suspicious person, they must go through you to get any information. Even information like your mother’s maiden name might be used to commit identity theft down the road. Make sure your parents know that they shouldn’t ever share personal information and any and all requests for any money must go through you. No matter how persistent the person on the phone or via email is.
  • Don’t ever share personal or identifying info on a social media site. Criminals will target your parents in “Grandparents Scams” posing as their grand children in distress using social profiles as research.
  • Make sure your parents know to check their credit card and bank accounts quite often. You should also set up text or email alerts about their accounts.
  • Get your parents a shredder. All bank statements and any other sensitive information should be put through the shredder. Crooks love to go through trash to find old statements and other information that they can use.
  • If your parents use Wi-Fi, show them how to use a VPN. Hotspots are not protected and scammers use them often.
  • When writing an obituary, don’t use any details that a crook could use to steal an identify. Sadly, the bad guys use this information in terrible ways.
  • Explain the importance of email safety. Phishing is very common, and even if an email looks safe and legitimate, no one, including you or your parents, should click a link in an email.
  • Help your parents understand that there is a difference between http and https. Tell them that if a website has http, it is not secure, so they shouldn’t share personal information.
  • You can also help your parents opt out of any unnecessary offers. Go to the website com and sign up.
  • Work with your parents to freeze their credit.

Stay Aware of Scammers

Do not allow your parents to be a scammer’s next victims. You can easily prevent this, and most importantly, your parents won’t have to go through the stress of rebuilding their credit and recovering their identity. One of the most important things that you can do is to be aware of these scams.

Protect the Identity of Your Parents

All of us are vulnerable to identity theft, and we can’t protect ourselves 100% of the time. However, by doing things like signing up for identity theft protection or doing a credit freeze can help to keep us all safe.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Do You Really Need Identity Theft Protection or is it a Waste of Money?

I see a ton of articles that say identity theft protection is not something you really need. These articles have titles like “ID Theft Protection Does Not Work,” or “The Poor Man’s Guide to ID Theft Protection.” Though some of these articles have a bit of merit, they totally miss the point.

Here’s the deal – You can’t protect yourself from every type of ID theft out there, and the types you can protect yourself against require a ton of focus. One way or the other, it will cost you money, time, and probably a bit of anxiety too.

Those who have elected not to invest in ID theft protection say they don’t need to pay for a service that they can take care of on their own. Why? Because they do the following:

Dispose of Their Mail, Securely – One thing that people do to protect their identity is to shred all of their mail. This is especially the case when it contains account information. However, this isn’t enough. Though you might do your part, there is no guarantee that your bank, mortgage company, or even electrical provider won’t toss paperwork with your information into a dumpster. At that point, it’s free for the taking.

Opt Out of Preapproved Credit Card Offers and Junk Mail – Yes, this is good advice. You can do it online at OptOutPrescreen.com. However, keep in mind that even if you do this, you will still get some offers.

Get a P.O. Box – I’m not sure why people think that getting and using a P.O. box will help to protect them from identity theft, but they do. Yes, this is a more secure way of getting your mail and in some cases will protect sensitive data. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much.

Check Their Credit Report – Yes, you should always check your credit report. But, people who believe that checking their credit report can stop ID theft are mistaken. You can get a free credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but you really need to check more often than once every 12 months. Checking a credit report does not proactively protect your identity.

Set Up Fraud Alerts – People also set up fraud alerts and think they are fully protected from ID theft. Again, fraud alerts are great, but they expire after 90 days, and most people forget to renew the service. Additionally, these are only a guideline for your creditors, and they are not required to contact you if they issue credit.

Freeze Their Credit – These people also freeze their credit. This is a good thing to do, and I think it is fundamental to protecting your identity, but again, it doesn’t help to protect your ID from tax-related identity theft, criminal identity theft, account takeover or medical identity theft.

All of these things help, and are necessary in addition to a Protection Service, but people who stick with these and don’t get full service identity theft protection are putting themselves in a precarious position. Instead, it’s best to get a professional product, which offers better protection.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Second Hand and Discarded Devices Lead to Identity Theft

A new study was just released by the National Association for Information Destruction. What did it find? Astonishingly, about 40% of all digital devices that are found on the second-hand market had personal information left on them. These include tablets, mobile phones, and hard drives.

The market for second hand items is large, and it’s a good way to find a decent mobile device or computer for a good price. However, many times, people don’t take the time to make sure all their personal information is gone. Some don’t even understand that the data is there. This might include passwords, usernames, company information, tax details, and even credit card data.  What’s even more frightening is that this study used simple methods to get the data off the devices. Who knows what could be found if experts, or hackers, got their hands on them. It wouldn’t be surprising to know they found a lot more.

Here are some ways to make sure your devices are totally clean before getting rid of them on the second-hand marketplace:

  • Back It Up – Before doing anything, back up your device.
  • Wipe It – Simply hitting the delete button or reformatting a hard drive isn’t’ enough. Instead, the device has to be fully wiped. For PCs, consider Active KillDisk. For Macs, there is a built in OS X Disk Utility. For phones and tablets, do a factory reset, and then a program called Blancco Mobile.
  • Destroy It – If you can’t wipe it for some reason, it’s probably not worth the risk. Instead, destroy the device. Who knows, it might be quite fun to take a sledge hammer to your old PC’s hard drive, right? If nothing else, it’s a good stress reliever!
  • Recycle It – You can also recycle your old devices, just make sure that the company is legitimate and trustworthy. The company should be part of the e-Stewards or R2, Responsible Recycling, programs. But destroy the hard drive first.

Record It – Finally, make sure to document any donation you make with a receipt. This can be used as a deduction on your taxes and might add a bit to your next tax return.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Man raises a Family on Dead Man’s Stolen Identity

Imagine you learn your husband (or wife) of 25 years is really a different person. That’s what happened to Mary Hickman—25 years after she married a man who had identified himself all those years back as Terry Jude Symansky. The Florida couple had a son and lead an uneventful life, with Symansky working different jobs and even acquiring a pilot’s license.

11DIn actuality, Symansky was really Richard Hoagland, who’d been married twice before, who had lived in Indiana and then mysteriously disappeared and was eventually presumed dead. He had stolen the real Terry Jude Symansky’s identity and got away with this for 25 years—until he was busted by Symansky’s nephew.

The nephew learned of the identity theft, something he never even suspected, via Ancestry.com. He reported this to the police, who then alerted Hickman.

Hickman subsequently came upon documents in the attic proving that her husband was an imposter of a man who had died in 1991 in a drowning accident. Hoagland, 63, was arrested.

So why had he vanished from Indiana? There, he’d had four kids with two wives. He had wanted to get away from one of the wives, so he up and left, though he told her it was because the FBI wanted him for the theft of millions of dollars—a claim that has yet to be substantiated.

How did Hoagland steal Symansky’s identity in the first place? It certainly helped that he had once been living with the dead man’s father, where he had found a copy of Symansky’s death certificate. He had used this document to get a birth certificate, and armed with that, he was on his way to assuming the identify of a man who had never even been married nor had any kids—which had made it even easier for Hoagland to pull off his caper.

We can probably thank those Ancestry.com commercials for causing the chain of events that led up to the crook’s arrest.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Are You Part of the 70 Percent Who Are Clueless About Identity Theft?

You’d think with all the media attention regarding data breaches, hackers and identity theft, that consumers would be more focused on their privacy and how to protect their information from prying eyes. Surprisingly, almost 70% of the people are clueless about how a criminal might have got a hold of their personal information.

We all have a lot going on in our lives, and this is exactly how identity thieves like us. Ever lurking, these criminals are counting on us being too busy to give any thought to who we are sharing our information to. These people are always there, and just waiting for us to make mistakes.

The startling truth is that most victims of an identity theft crime, about 68 percent, don’t know how their information was obtained, and 92 percent of victims have no idea who stole their information. A further 45 percent of identity theft victims don’t realize they are a victim until they hear from their financial institution. There are more than 16 million victims of identity theft each year.

IdentityForce created a very informative info-graphic (nice job IdentityForce!) that shows the public are essentially sitting ducks, just waiting to be picked off by identity thieves.

identity_info

What did you do to expose your information? Consider the following:

  • Got married
  • Gave too much info away on social media
  • Responded to a fraudulent text, message, or email

Additionally, major life events put you at greater risk of becoming a victim, such as having a baby or getting a new job.

When most of us consider identity theft, we usually think immediately of credit card fraud, but there is much more to it than that. Though credit card fraud is a common type of identity theft, these thieves can use the information they have obtained to do the following:

  • Open up a new bank account or credit card…and make changes to your billing address, leaving you none the wiser
  • Take out a large loan, such as a mortgage or vehicle loan, and never pay the loan off
  • File a fraudulent tax return, and taking the money that comes from it

If you find yourself to be a victim of identity theft, you could be dealing with the aftermath for years to come, and could struggle to clear your name and repair your credit score.

Fortunately, there are several ways that you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Some of this includes:

  • Only give out your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary
  • Do not allow mail to sit in a mailbox
  • Don’t respond to suspicious requests for personal information
  • Only create complex passwords for online accounts

Here’s how to be part of the 30% of informed, alert, aware and cyber smart consumers: Take the “Identity Theft Risk Quiz” here: https://www.identityforce.com/resources/quiz To further protect yourself, sign up for an identity theft service, today.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Identity Theft getting even worse

In 2015, depending on the kind and type of identity theft we are talking about, identity thieves impacted 1.5 million people or more, says the Javelin Strategy & Research report. That’s more than double than for 2014.

The move from stripe cards to chip cards has motivated crooks to fasten their seatbelts and really take off with an accelerated mode of operation. For them, your Social Security Number is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Thieves will use it to set up new accounts in the victims’ names, then go on spending sprees. This kind of identity theft is called new-account fraud.

  • This can go on for months or years before the victim realizes it.
  • Sometimes the victim never finds out.
  • These cases can also slip by the victim’s bank.

A favorite scam is for the thief to create a fake (partially stolen, partially faked) identity morphed from multiple pieces of real—and stolen—data. So we have not only a stolen identity but a fictitious identity—which could be created using your Social Security number and someone else’s home address and name. This is called synthetic ID, and banks see right past it.

Synthetic ID Crimes

  • ID manipulation: The criminal uses a stolen core identity but integrates false pieces of data to avert detection.
  • Quick synthetics: Data pieces from multiple, real victims are compiled into a single identity.

What can banks do?

  • Analyze cellphone account data to see if there’s a predictable pattern of billing details, since many thieves may use a prepaid, discardable VoIP phone.
  • E-mail history is also important to look at; a new e-mail for an old account should be suspicious for fraud.
  • Another red flag is if the e-mail address doesn’t correlate to the mobile device.

What can be done by credit card issuers?

  • Checking a person’s identity needs to be more thorough.
  • For instance, a red flag would be spotting the same address for several different names.
  • Repeat scoring of the applicant’s risk score, one to three days later, to see if there’s a change. A change is a red flag.

What can you do?

No identity theft is OK. But if synthetic identity theft happens you to, meaning some sleaze uses your SSN, but not your name, you may never know about it. And that means it may not actually affect you. But:

  • Check your credit reports at least annually
  • Consider investing in identity theft protection. Identity theft protection monitors your SSN for activity on the dark web and on most new lines of credit.
  • Get a credit freeze. A credit freeze locks down your credit and prevents new account fraud.

The bottom line is that banks and credit card issuers need to employ a multi-layer approach to screening and approving applicants. The more layers, the harder it will be for a fraudster to penetrate. Four layers are significantly better than two layers.

Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Tax Identity Theft jumps on Payroll Scams

Do you work for a corporation, especially in the U.S.? You may be at risk for tax return fraud.

9DADP is a payroll provider. Hackers were able to acquire tax information of employees of U.S. Bank from ADP. Now, this doesn’t mean that ADP was directly hacked into. Instead, what happened, it seems, their authentication system was flawed and ADP failed to implement a protection strategy for the personal data to keep it safe from prying eyes.

The crooks registered ADP accounts by using the stolen data of the bank employees. These accounts allowed the crooks to get additional W-2 information—enough to commit tax return fraud. In other words, looks like a W-2 gateway was created to file fraudulent tax returns.

If it happened to U.S. Bank and ADP, it can happen many places else.

ADP says that the breach did not originate from their computer network, but where exactly it did come from is not clear at this point, as there are multiple possibilities including the hacking into of a third party service.

The hackers also used a unique company issued URL. This URL is needed to register an ADP account. It is not known at this point in time if the U.S. Bank URL required credentials to gain access to or not, but since this data breach, U.S. Bank has withdrawn plans to further post the URL online. U.S. Bank has also removed their publicly accessible W-2 form from cyberspace.

Despite the data breach, there were only minimal effects to employees and customers of ADP and U.S. Bank. But the minimal adverse outcome is no reason to let your guard down. Next time, the institutions may not be so lucky.

Solution: Fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit ASAP. Here: http://robertsicilian.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/f14039.pdf

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

IRS Identity Theft Prevention Tool hacked

The Identity Protection PIN tool on the IRS.gov site has been temporarily suspended—because it was recently hacked into. The tool provides retrieval of forgotten or lost IP PINs to users who want an extra layer of protection against identity theft.

9DBut some users who received the IP PINs recently via the online tool learned that a thief had used their IP PIN to file tax returns in their name.

So now, for the moment, you cannot use the IRS’s online function to retrieve your IP PIN; meanwhile, the IRS is investigating the hack.

The online tool attracts taxpayers who lost or forgot the six-digit IP PIN they were issued via snail mail. Despite the suspension of the tool, taxpayers are encouraged to file their returns without any qualms. The IP PINs purpose is to add additional protection to the user, but is not required to process a tax return.

Lesson learned: If you ever receive an IP PIN in the future…memorize it or write it down in hardcopy and keep in a safe place.

Tips from the IRS

  • There will always be someone who misplaces or accidentally throws out the letter containing the IP PIN, or who intentionally discards the document but then can’t remember the number and never wrote it down. They should call the IRS in the wake of this suspension.
  • Over the phone, they will need to verify their identity, after which they will receive a letter with the IP PIN.
  • If since the first of this year the taxpayer has moved, they will need to file a paper return, and this will take longer to process if it doesn’t contain an IP PIN.
  • The IP PIN is given out to those at risk or who feel at risk for tax identity theft. But again, it’s not necessary to use it if it’s been lost or forgotten. But for those who managed to retrieve their number, they should include it on their tax return.

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