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Understanding Familiar Fraud

Have you heard the saying “familiar fraud?” If not, you should. This is a crime that is as old as they come; essentially, it’s a crime where someone is taken advantage of by someone they know. For instance, a woman named Axton Betz-Hamilton had her entire savings account drained and the person responsible was unknown…that is until Axton’s mother passed away, and it was discovered that it was her, Axton’s own mother, who had drained the account.

credit fraudIt’s believed that familiar fraud is not often reported, likely because victims of these crimes think that police won’t take them seriously, or that it will negatively affect their relationship with their family. There is also the fact that, in many cases, these crimes go undetected because people just can’t believe a member of their family would do something like this.

As you might imagine, the fallout of familiar fraud can run deep. Think, for a minute, how it would feel to find out that your best friend of 30 years has stolen your identity. Something similar happened to a man named Thomas Nitzsche. He hired his cousin to remodel his bathroom, and he gave his cousin his credit card. What did Thomas’ cousin do? He took the card, bought a bunch of merchandise, and then he sold the merch on the streets.

Even when this happens, it’s common for people who learn that they are a victim of familiar fraud to want to naturally protect their loved ones. This might be due to protecting relationships or to avoid backlash from others. There is also the fact that your family might not believe you when you tell them your sister or your father has been stealing from you.

What Should You Do?

 If you think that you are the victim of familiar fraud, you should do the following:

  • Do your best to keep your emotions out of it.
  • Keep an eye on your credit report. You should also place a fraud alert or better, get a credit freeze on your credit file.
  • Think about resolving things without police intervention if it is pretty minor.
  • If not, you might want to contact the cops, but think about the pros and cons of this.
  • If you do report this, expect some turmoil within the family, but also realize that you are protecting your credit.

If you file a police report, you will also be able to get an extended fraud statement, which can last for seven years. This may or may not mean you won’t be responsible for any charges. Lenders sometimes look at familiar fraud as an approved purchase and will not negotiate forgiveness.

Other Safety Measures 

  • Each month review your credit card statements.
  • If you see changes, even small ones, you should report it immediately
  • Don’t give out your debit or credit card to your friends or relatives. If you want to give them money, give them cash.
  • Set up push notifications or push alerts so you are aware of charges in real time.

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.

What the Equifax Data Breach Can Teach Us About Security Fatigue

If you buy anything, anywhere, you are at risk of a cyber threat. Though you probably know that cyber threats exist, if you are like most of us, you don’t’ know what to do when it comes to being safe online, and if you become a victim, you really don’t know what to do. This is all important as we prepare for the next big breach like the one that happened with Equifax. If you use credit, you are a potential victim here.

According to Equifax, more than 147 million people were affected by the breach, and most of us had or have no idea what we can do about it, or how it might affect us in the future. On top of this, when we look at statistics, we can see that almost 27 billion…not million, but billion…additional records were exposed due to data breaches in 2020, and things are only going to get worse.

The issue is that people are frustrated, scared, and confused, and because these cyber-attacks are so common now, people are just getting apathetic about it. Of course, this is very dangerous. Additionally, there are other issues, too, specifically “security fatigue.”

What does this mean? It means that people just want nothing to do with worrying about computer security at all, and they get annoyed when they hear all of the rhetoric that comes from security experts like “keep an eye out for blah, blah, blah.”

Cyber Attacks are More Common Now Than Ever in the Past

It should be no surprise that cyber attacks are more common today than they were in the past. That also means that the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft are higher. Internet fraud is playing a big role in this, but it’s not just human error and bad passwords that are causing this. Instead, it’s the lack of people doing anything to stop it. And here’s the thing…if you think it can’t happen to you, you are wrong.

Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

It is not difficult to protect yourself online. Here are seven tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Download a program for your browser that tells you if a site you are going to go to is dangerous. These can be seen right from your browser, and if a site is safe, you will immediately know. A full suite of antivirus should include a browser plug-in to serve this purpose.
  • Keep your passwords safe with a password manager. It is very important to use a different password for every account.
  • Get some type of ID theft coverage through your employer, your bank, or other business. It’s not easy to 100% fully protect your identity, but using something like this can make things much, much easier.
  • Set up two-factor authentication and text alerts for sensitive accounts like bank accounts, email, and social media.
  • Freeze your credit. This way, a scammer can’t open any new accounts in your name.
  • Learn more about common internet scams. You should understand what ransomware is, phishing, scareware, and more.

One of the biggest things you should take away from this is to understand that if you become a victim of something like this, it doesn’t just affect you; it also can affect your family, friends, co-workers, and more. Yes, it might be annoying to some to have to take these steps, but it could be the difference between staying safe and becoming a victim.

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.

The Significant Risks of the Remote Desktop

Are you one of the millions of Americans who are now working from home? Or have you been working from home for awhile? Either way, it is likely that you are using some type of remote desktop protocol. If you are, there are some things that you should be aware of.

None of us believe that we will be hacked, but we have seen over and over again that it is possible. Even the biggest companies out there have been hacked, and a small company is even more at risk of this. Add the use of a program called Remote Desktop offered by Microsoft or Google Chrome or many other third-party remote access programs, and you need to be aware of some things.

Essentially, Remote Desktop allows you to access a computer remotely. It might be in your home or your office, and you can give access to others who are also working remotely in the form of a “remote assistance scam”. However, when you give access, or have this access, your network may be wide open for hackers. There have been thousands and thousands of cases where people have become victims of various remote desktop/remote assistance scams, and if a hack is successful, it can destroy a small business, wreck a persons bank account or lead to identity theft.

What is Remote Desktop?

Remote Desktop is a very common software, and if you work on a computer with Windows, you probably have this program, and you don’t even know it. Though it’s a great tool, it is not as secure as it should be.

Criminals are well-aware of this, of course, and they have worked to create a number of tools for hacking into the software. When they get access to networks, the hackers can also access company info and steal things like login information. Once they have this information, the hackers can buy and sell them so other hackers can use them. Once they are in, they have access to anything and everything on the network.

You are at Risk

It is estimated that there are more than 3 million businesses out there that have access to Remote Desktop. Most of these are small businesses, and many of them manage their own IT services. If you own a small business and you have an IT department, you fall into this category. Additionally, hackers know that these companies are weaker, and they target businesses like this…and any company that has Remote Desktop is also a target.

What You Can Do About It

At this point, you are probably wondering what you can do to protect your company or yourself from hackers who like to use Remote Desktop to access networks. Here are some tips:

  • If you don’t use Remote Desktop, you should remove it from your computer.
  • Make sure that when there is a Windows Update, that you update it as soon as you possibly can. It’s possible that this update could have a security patch that is imperative for keeping hackers out.
  • Ensure that your wireless connections are encrypted, and also password protected.
  • If you want to keep Remote Desktop, you can, but choose to only use it on a computer that is running on a VPN, or virtual private network.
  • Use a firewall, too, so you can restrict access.
  • Another thing you can do is set up two-factor authentication.
  • Beware of any pop ups or phone calls that lead to someone requesting remote access to our device.
  • Understand that none of this is fool proof. The only way to totally protect yourself from hacks via Remote Desktop is to totally delete the program.

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.

Kids Home? Rethink Their Digital Security or it Will Bite You

If you had asked me a few months ago what I felt about “screen time” and kids, I would have told you that I wouldn’t give my kids their own devices or allow social media accounts until they were 15. But things have changed. Now, I’m happy to let the kids on the family tablet, and even allow them to use things like FaceTime, games, and email. Why? Because I want to make sure that they have some type of connection to the outside world.

However, this didn’t happen without some ground rules, not only to keep the kids safe, but to make sure they don’t totally fall headfirst into cyberspace. Here’s some tips:

No Social Media

Oh you didn’t think I was gonna give you a pass did you? No, my 14-year-old is still not on social media, and she doesn’t complain about it, she doesn’t miss it, and she’s better off for it. First of all, it’s a time suck, it’s often a cesspool of BS, misinformation, disinformation, and just plain mean-ness.

Sure my kids might get the occasional TikTok video from one of their friends, but they don’t have the app, they’re not spending any time on it, and while they might learn a TikTok dance or two, they’re certainly not recording one and posting it online.

Teach Your Kids to Respect Digital Devices

There are a number of ways that you can do this, including setting a rule that they must ask permission before they use the device or go online. By doing this, you are making them conscious of their actions.

Set Rules on When They Can Have Access to Certain Apps or Devices

Another thing you can do is make sure that you set rules about when your kids can access certain devices or aps. For instance, maybe make a rule that they must use devices in common areas, or they can only use game apps after dinner. Whatever the case, you should be checking in on what they are doing.

Create a Schedule

Only allow your kids to use devices when you are available to help or when you know they can’t get in trouble. Allow them to watch Netflix while you are in an online meeting but bring the remote with you.

Create an Agreement

Also, think about a “tech agreement” for your kids. If they break the rules, there will be consequences, just like they have with other rules in your home.

Discuss Online Privacy and Tone

One of the most important things to do is discuss online privacy and tone. Kids don’t always realize that what goes on the internet can stay there forever. Suggest, perhaps, telling your kids not to do anything they wouldn’t do or say with grandma in the room. It works.

Tell Them Your Expectations

Talk to your kids about what you are comfortable with…or not…when they are online. For instance, if you don’t want them talking to strangers, there are email programs that allow you to approve and email that is sent and received. There are similar chat programs.

Is it Time to Talk About Pornography?

This might be the perfect time to talk about pornography, too. Experts say conversations about this should start around kindergarten. To minimize the chances your kid will access it, use parental controls or kid-friendly browsers.

Understand that Kids Will be Kids

Finally, take a deep breath and realize that kids will be kids. As long as they are being safe and polite, allowing them access to these things might be the best way to get through these nationwide quarantines.

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.

Beware of Job and eWork at Home Scams

Pandemics can be quite stressful. There are millions of people out of work, and there we really don’t know when the economy will truly bounce back. Those who are out of work are seeking other jobs, at least temporarily, and many are looking for jobs that they can do from home…right from Google.

jobsSince people have been losing their jobs, searches for terms like “laid off,” “unemployment benefits,” and “unemployed” have skyrocketed. Though some people are finding legitimate search results, others are falling for sites that are scams, and Google is allowing these sites to stay.

We have often used Google search data to determine what type of economic anxiety people are feeling, and this is certainly true right now.

Google makes its money through advertising, so it’s not totally surprising that these sites are allowed to stay on. When people are searching for information on unemployment, advertisers are seeing this, and are able to determine where they should market. This includes those working for predatory companies, who are targeting people who are unemployed.

One such example is “unemploymentcom.com.” This is a site that seems, at first, like it might be a good resource for someone who is unemployed. While there are some legitimate links there, in general, the site is trying to get people to sign up for “site profiles” and other things. It also urges people to sign up for access to your credit score…for a fee, and it absolutely sells all of the data it gets to other organizations.

When you look at the privacy policy of this website, you can see that it is owned by OnPoint Global, a conglomerate, which claims it has around 11 million people filling out unemployment surveys each month. However, what people doing this don’t realize is that the information the site is collecting is likely being complied into a package for advertisers, which also includes any other public information they can find about the person filling out the survey.

Keep in mind that it is not just the pages for people looking for information on unemployment that we are talking about. It can really be anything similar, like “unemployment insurance.” Some of these searches can even lead you to sites that can hijack your browser. Other sites simply collect as much data as they can, and then sell the information to marketers.

Everyone who is out there scared and unemployed are still considered to be consumers to these companies, and they still are seen as people who have money to spend. So, Google is still pushing sites like these to the top of search results, and still making a pretty penny from clicks. So, do yourself a favor and start being aware of the ads you are clicking, and better yet…don’t click them at all.

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.

Young Kids Getting Sexually Exploited Online More Than Ever Before

An alarming new study is out, and if you are a parent, you should take note…children as young as 8-years old are being sexually exploited via social media. This is a definite downturn from past research, and it seems like one thing is to blame: live streaming.

Robert Siciliano Quora Breach

YouTube serves up videos of kids, in clothing, that pedophiles consume and share as if it is child porn. It’s gotten so bad that YouTube has had to disable the comments sections of videos with kids in them.

Apps like TikTok are very popular with younger kids, and they are also becoming more popular for the sexual predators who seek out those kids. These apps are difficult to moderate, and since it happens in real time, you have a situation that is almost perfectly set up for exploitation.

Last year, a survey found that approximately 57 percent of 12-year olds and 28% of 10-year olds are accessing live-streaming content. However, legally, the nature of much of this content should not be accessed by children under the age of 13. To make matters worse, about 25 percent of these children have seen something while watching a live stream that they and their parents regretted them seeing

Protecting Your Children

Any child can become a victim here, but as a parent, there are some things you can do to protect your kids. First, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you posting pictures or video of your children online? Do you allow your kids to do the same? A simple video of your child by the pool has become pedophile porn.
  • Do you have some type of protection in place for your kids when they go online?
  • Have you talked to your children about the dangers of sharing passwords or account information?
  • Do your kids understand what type of behavior is appropriate when online?
  • Do you personally know, or do your kids personally know, the people they interact with online?
  • Can your kids identify questions from others that might be red flags, such as “where do you live?” “What are your parents names?” “Where do you go to school?”
  • Do your kids feel safe coming to you to talk about things that make them feel uncomfortable?

It is also important that you, as a parent, look for red flags in your children’s behavior. Here are some of those signs:

  • Your kid gets angry if you don’t let them go online.
  • Your child become secretive about what they do online, such as hiding their phone when you walk into the room.
  • Your kid withdraws from friends or family to spend time online.

It might sound like the perfect solution is to “turn off the internet” at home, but remember, your kids can access the internet in other ways, including at school and at the homes of their friends. It would be great to build a wall around your kids to keep them safe, but that’s not practical, nor is it in their best interest. Instead, talk to your child about online safety and make sure the entire family understands the dangers that are out there.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video

Protect your USPS Mail from Getting Stolen

USPSID stands for U.S. Postal Service Informed Delivery. It is a good thing to sign up for because it informs you of your expected deliveries.

But there’s a problem: Someone ELSE could pose as you and sign up for this service, getting your mail before you have a chance to.

In fact, it has already happened. Crooks have signed up as other address owners and collected their mail.

This can lead to credit card fraud if some of that mail includes new credit cards or credit card applications.

And what if the mail includes a check? The thief could find a way to get it cashed. What a thief could do with your mail is limited only by his or her imagination.

Krebsonsecurity.com reports that seven crooks in Michigan used the USPS to, not surprisingly, apply for credit cards via those applications that we all get.

Then they waited for the new cards to arrive. They knew just when they’d arrive, too, and planned to raid the owner’s mailbox on that date. Of course, the owners never even knew that the cards were applied for.

The crooks obtained the cards and spent a total of about $400,000. Needless to say, they didn’t bother stealing the bills.

Though a key on your mailbox will surely help, you can add an extra layer of protection by emailing eSafe@usps.gov to opt out of the service. This will prevent anyone from using it in your name.

KrebsOnSecurity reports that this email address may be inactive. So at least have your mailbox fashioned with a lock – even if you do get a response from that email address.

Another thing you can do is get a credit freeze, though this doesn’t guarantee 100 percent that a thief won’t be able to sign up your address with the USPS, but the freeze will prevent new credit cards being opened in your name.

What Else Can You Do?

  • Check your existing credit card statements every month for any odd or unfamiliar charges and report them immediately even if the amount is small.
  • Contact credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and sign up for alerts to any changes in your credit report.
  • Can’t be said enough: Get a locking mailbox, there’s simply too much sensitive information not to.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

 

How Your Username Can Be used to Track You

You probably have a few usernames, or you might have just one that you use for every site. Either way, your user names can be used not just to identify you online, but it can also be used to track you and find out information about you. How do people track you based on your user name? They do the following:

They Start with a Google Search

The first thing people do to track your username is do a Google search. You will be amazed by all of the information that is out there. However, Google is not the only game in town, so the best scammers will search on other search engines, too, including Bing,  USA.gov, various information broker sites and within social media.

They Then Move on to Social Networks

With so many people on social networks, it is a good possibility that a scammer can find you there, too, especially if they know the username that you use over and over again. It’s easy to find someone on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram, and in many cases, this is a gold mine of information for them.  Once they find your account, they can do any number of things like save your profile image, and then do a reverse image source. This often helps them find even more information.

Don’t Forget the Blogs

Savvy searchers will also do searches of a username on blogging sites like Tumblr, Blogger, and LiveJournal. Unless your blog is locked down, and most are not, they can read them.

Do a General Sweep of Username Searches

There are other sites, too, that allow people to search by username. For example, you can search for a username on Spotify. This could tell them what types of music you like. They also might look on a site like Reddit, and they can see any comments you have made. They aren’t done yet, though…you can even search for usernames on sites like Amazon.com and eBay. As you can imagine, once they go through all of these steps, they can know a ton about you.

You might think that this is an invasion of privacy, but all of this information is totally legal, totally available, and totally free.

And many of you are TOTALLY putting it ALL out there!

If you put your information out there, it is there for anyone to look at and use as they will. So, consider changing up your usernames, and while you are at it, take a look at your accounts and content to make sure nothing there’s going to get you in trouble, and beef up the security options.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Do Not take that Stupid Facebook Quiz

Where should you live in the world? What Game of Thrones family are you in? What is the food that best describes your personality? All of these answers are given and found by doing quizzes on Facebook. You have surely seen them if you use Facebook, and have may have taken these quizzes, but you definitely might want to consider stopping. If you have ever used one of these quizzes, you have probably given these third-party apps permission to access some of your personal data. Not only does this affect you, it might also affect the people on your friends list. How does it affect you? These answers can sometimes crack password reset questions,

Here are some tips that you can use to protect yourself:

Use Two-Factor Authentication – Almost all social media sites offer two-factor authentication. This allows you to further lockdown your accounts, as you won’t be able to sign in with only a password. Instead, you need a password and a code, which is often sent to you via text message. So, no one can log into your account even if they have your password, unless they also have access to your phone and texts.

Stop Taking Quizzes – The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to stop taking those quizzes. Though they look innocent enough, every click gives the company information on you. It’s true that not all companies collect your personal info, but you really have to do some digging in the terms of service to see if they do or not.

Check Your Privacy Settings – When is the last time you reviewed your privacy settings on Facebook? If you are like most of us, it’s probably been awhile. So, take some time to log in and do this. If you need a tip, choose to only share with yourself by clicking “Only Me” on all of the settings. That’s the safest, but after all, this is SOCIAL media, so you might want to pick and choose.

Look at What You Share – You should also look in your app security to find out what you are sharing with third-parties. You might be surprised at what you see.

Delete Old Accounts – Finally, make sure that you take a look at, and delete, any old social media accounts. If you don’t want to delete it, at a minimum, change your password. Also, Google yourself and see what accounts come up. If you can find it, you can bet that a hacker can.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

15 Year Old’s Naked Photos Spread Like Wild Fire

https://safr.me/webinar/  | Robert Siciliano is the #1 Security Expert in the United States with over 25 years of experience! He is here to help you become more aware of the risks and strategies to help protect yourself, your family, your business, and your entire life. Robert brings identity theft, personal security, fraud prevention and cyber security to light so that criminals can no longer hide in the dark. You need to be smarter than criminals yesterday so that they don’t take advantage of you today! If you would like to learn more about Security Awareness, then sign up for Robert’s latest webinar!

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You have probably heard the story before. Teenage girl takes some scantily clad photos and sends them to her latest boyfriend. “What could go wrong?,” she thinks. Well, a lot could go wrong, and an article on Vice.com really lays that out. You might think that the boyfriend is to blame for this 15-year old’s photos spreading like wildfire, but the truth is this: he deleted them soon after getting them…the photos got out because the teen kept them on her phone and some classmates took that phone.

Ultimately, the photos got into the hands of the victim’s best friend. At this point, you probably think “Phew…the photos are safe.”  Wrong again. Her “best friend” ended up posting the photos to a blog. Many years later, the victim found out why…her “best friend” was mad that she had sent some angry texts to her the night before, and that her main motivation was to simply hurt her friend because of those texts. That’s all it took for a teen’s life to be effectively ruined for months.

When things like this happen, many women are made to feel guilty that they took these photos, and this is a type of digital violence. In fact, more women are now seeking counseling to help to combat these feelings. The thing is, if you have a nude photo, you are certainly not immune. Teens often become victims here, but so do adult women and celebrities. In most cases, someone else is spreading these photos, but the victim is often blamed.

In late 2017, the EU passed new laws that help to better protect people who find themselves in this situation, and in 2015, the British government made these actions a crime, too. However, in most other countries, no such laws exist.

In this case, the victim ended up forgiving her classmates, but as an adult, she still has not overcome the invasion of her privacy. She also still struggles with the fact that most people in the community blamed her…not the boys who stole her phone, nor her friend, who posted them on the internet. She says that people came up to her for years after the incident and told her they saw those photos, too, and she still has that feeling that she did something wrong.

Finally, as a society, we have to find ways to make sure that victims of these crimes are taken seriously, and ensure that video sites, like YouTube, and social media sites, like Facebook, respond immediately when notified of content like this.

And, please, I’m not blaming the victim here, and a bit of advice, no naked pics of yourself, girlfriend, husband or wife please. It’s a bit too risky and can have significant consequences.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.