Archive for December, 2011
Sunday, December 25th, 2011
Our data lives in hundreds of different locations, and is bought and sold hundreds, sometimes thousands of times a year. It’s lost by companies we trust on a regular basis, adding up to over 100 million compromised records a year. And we, as individuals, hand our own data out or leave it exposed far too often.
For example, you might complete a credit card application to get a free T-shirt at a baseball game. Sure, you might have every intention of canceling that card; but you’ve just handed over your personal and financial information to a guy in a sales booth. Similarly, if your husband emails you at work to request your Social Security number to compete your tax return, you might email it back to him, especially if you’re too swamped to call. While this is the easiest option at the time, what if his email or Internet connection is compromised by a cybercriminal? Your Social Security number could end up in the wrong hands. This type of carefree behavior leads to millions of Americans falling victim to identity theft every year.
But does this mean we should give up modern conveniences in order to keep our information safe? Absolutely not. Advances in technology have had a profound affect on our lives. You can pay your bills online, research and book the vacation of your dreams in 15 minutes flat, check your email via your Blackberry while playing hooky from work, and file your taxes from your living room. Who wants to give these up?
Trading off privacy for convenience is a common decision. You’re making this tradeoff when you leave a house key with the next-door neighbors so they can bring in the mail while you’re on vacation. You’re also making it when you register for an online magazine subscription, which is free in exchange for your personal information.
The truth is that you’re at risk whenever you give your information to anybody. It’s up to you to decide where to draw the line. Your best bet is to be selective about which companies and individuals you give information to. For example, you’ll enjoy discounts by ordering your books from Amazon.com or joining a supermarket ‘loyalty club,” but you’ll also surrender information about your buying habits. It’s up to you to decide if this tradeoff is worth it.
Finally, by following the steps in this book to protect your identity, home, family, and computers, you’ve significantly reduced your odds of becoming a victim. You now understand how to safely email, surf the Web, shop, bank, and travel, while protecting your information. You know how thieves can use your Social Security number, credit cards, and other information to steal your identity, and how to prevent them from doing so, or at least find out about it soon after. This means that you can enjoy the conveniences this world has to offer while keeping your identity as safe as it can be.
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Friday, December 23rd, 2011
The holiday season is the season for giving, but this is not always the case. Unfortunately, the holiday season is also peak stealing season for identity thieves, con artists, and grinches of all sorts. These criminals are out in full force during the biggest shopping season of the year, just waiting for the right opportunity to take advantage of stressed and distracted shoppers.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), identity theft affects ten million American victims each year, costing individuals and businesses $52 billion. And that number is expected to increase as identity thieves become more sophisticated and as the technique is further embraced by large criminal organizations.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep identity thieves from stealing your credit card information and other personal data — especially if you understand what they do and how they do it. TrustedID offers the following simple yet effective guidelines to help you reduce your risk of identity theft this holiday season.
• Use only authenticated Web sites to conduct business online. Before submitting personal or financial information through a Web site, check for the locked padlock image — — on your browser’s status bar or look for “https://” (rather than http://) in your browser window. If you have any concerns about the authenticity of a Web page, call the site’s owner to confirm the URL.
• Before buying anything online, make sure the site is secure. According to the Better Business Bureau, secure sites will have “https” instead of “http” in the Web address of the purchasing information page.
• Be careful with your passwords. Use “strong” passwords that contain both letters and numbers and change these passwords frequently.
• Be aware of phishing and pharming scams. In these scams, criminals use fake emails and Web sites to impersonate legitimate organizations. Exercise caution when opening emails and instant messages from unknown sources.
• Exercise your right to block unapproved access to your credit files. This is one of the best ways to prevent your information from being misused.
Shopping at the Mall
• Be aware of people standing nearby when you are making purchases. Always look over your shoulder—identity thefts have been known to copy credit card information or even take pictures of cards on their cell phone cameras.
• Shopping malls are especially crowded during the holidays, so carry your wallet or purse securely. Leave your social security card and checkbook at home.
• Write “Check Photo ID” in permanent ink on your credit card, near your signature. This is an effective way to remind cashiers to check your identity before processing your card.
• After the holidays are over, you may not want to see your credit card statements. But it is important to check your bills carefully for unfamiliar purchases. Save your holiday shopping receipts in one place so you can easily validate that your billing statement is accurate.
You can never be too safe when it comes to your personal information. By understanding the risks and taking extra precautions, you can give yourself the best holiday gift of all: peace of mind that your identity is safe.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday season this year, consider enrolling in a consumer protection service, such as IDEssentials, a suite of services designed to eliminate your exposure to identity theft and credit fraud. Visit www.TrustedID.com for more information on how you can proactively protect access to your credit and stay safe for seasons to come.
Happy Holidays from all of us at TrustedID!
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Thursday, December 15th, 2011
It seems that everyone uses Facebook and other social networking sites to stay connected with friends, families, and even businesses. However, a new study from online sharing platform Posterous conducted by Harris Interactive showed that most don’t protect their privacy on these sites. The study showed that the majority of US social network users felt family and personal photos were for private sharing. Expectations for privately sharing status updates and photos of friends were slightly more lenient.
Expectations vary slightly across social networking sites, however; users were typically less demanding of privacy on Facebook compared to other sites, such as Google+. One reason for the slight difference could be the familiarity of Facebook compared to a newer site like Google+ that users are still learning how to operate. In addition, Google+ in particular was billed as the answer to selective sharing, with its Circles highlighted much more strongly than Facebook’s analogous features.
When it comes to how well US social network users believe they understand Facebook’s privacy settings, Posterous found less than a third felt they had a complete understanding of such controls. Similarly, data from National Security Cyber Alliance and McAfee found 21% of US internet users were either unsure of when they last changed their social network privacy and security settings or admitted to having never done so.
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Monday, December 12th, 2011
About 75,000 victims of a work-from-home scam were refunded the money they paid, thanks to the FTC. Victims were targeted by scammers when they responded to an online work-from-home employment opportunity, in which they were sold job listings for $89.99 with a money-back guarantee if they didn’t find work.
The defendants are Abili-Staff Ltd., Equitron LLC, Pamela Jean Barthuly and Jorg Wilhelm Becker. The FTC obtained a court order to force the defendants to issue the refunds.
However, each of the victims only obtained an average of $9.70 in refund as about $729,700 is being refunded to 75,000 victims.
Consumers who receive the checks will have 60 days from the date they were issued to cash them. The FTC does not require consumers to pay money or provide information before redress checks can be cashed. Consumers with questions should call the refund administrator, Epiq Systems at 1-877-868-7790 or visit www.FTC.gov/refunds.
View the full article online.
In this case, there was no proof that the scammers were misusing victims’ identities or personal information. However, scams targeting job-seekers in a tough economy are one of the most common scams. Fraudulent companies that promise work-from-home jobs ask for money as a “set-up” fee. However, rather than giving people the jobs they promise, the scammers steal their money and your information.
To avoid becoming a victim of a scam like this, never give personal information, or wire money, unless you know for sure who is on the receiving end.
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Monday, December 12th, 2011
The San Francisco Chronicle highlighted some places where your identity could be stolen that you’d least expect:
1. Car loan applications: According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, auto loan identity theft is twice as high as any other form. It seems to be one of the easiest areas to steal your identity. This paperwork contains all the data a thief would need and is easily obtained from a salesperson’s desk, or the trash.
2. Pharmacies: Your pharmacy keeps your name, address, date of birth, phone number, medical insurance information and employer information on file. If your health insurance covers prescriptions and your prescription information, the pharmacy might even have your social security number.
3. Doctor’s office: Stealing your medical information can potentially be more serious than your identity, as thieves could mess up your medical records. Ask your doctor if you can use a identification number other than your Social Security number and make sure the doctor’s office protects your records.
4. Cyber greeting cards: If you get a greeting from a “friend,” be sure that your friends actually sent it before you open any attachment. It could contain malware, which could potentially destroy your computer or allow an identity thief access to your personal data to steal your identity, is unleashed. Unless the name of a real person that you know is attached to the greeting card, do not open it.
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Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
The European Commission (EC) may soon hit companies with major fines for data breaches, according to eWeek Europe.
The latest draft of newly proposed legal reforms would allow the EC to fine larger companies as much as 5% of their global earnings, which could mean billions of pounds for companies like Google or Facebook. If these reforms are passed, the EC would hold companies accountable for the customer data they sell to third parties without authorization and data transferred to social networks or cloud-based services. The new regulations would also apply to the European subsidiaries of organizations based outside the EU, forcing multinationals to strengthen their data protection policies.
In a speech in Brussels on Tuesday, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the reforms are intended to be “an inspiration for changes in the US and elsewhere.” She called out the US plans for a self-regulation regime for companies that collect personal data, arguing that this “will not be sufficient to achieve full interoperability between the EU and US.”
What would companies be required to do? For starters, they’d have to notify data protection authorities within 24 hours if they had a breach that affected private data. If passed, companies like RSA, which took two months to notify the authorities when it suffered a major data breach, would be heavy fined if they failed to comply.
The EC’s proposal is expected to be unveiled in January 2012, at which time changes in the way social networking sites like Facebook gather data will also be proposed.
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Tuesday, December 6th, 2011
A Business Week article reports that data breaches at U.S. health-care providers are increasing as hospitals adopt electronic medical records and mobile technology but fail to spend money on security to ensure patient privacy.
The frequency of data breaches at health organizations jumped 32 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, costing the industry an estimated $6.5 billion, according to a study released today by the Ponemon Institute LLC.
Forty-nine percent of health organizations said that lost or stolen devices were to blame for breaches, according to the institute, which surveyed 72 hospitals and health providers.
Fifty-three percent of the organizations surveyed said that inadequate funding was the biggest barrier to preventing data breaches, according to the study.
One of the biggest concerns is that doctors and other health-care professionals want to use their own smartphones or tablet computers, often without proper security, such as encryption or passwords. That increasing use of mobile technology is putting patient data at risk, according to the Ponemon study. Thirty-eight percent of providers surveyed said they were very confident or somewhat confident of the security of patient data accessed by mobile devices.
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Monday, December 5th, 2011
We found a new TV series to be touching and realistic in its portrayal of child identity theft.
“Burdened Beginnings” is a series that looks at child identity theft. One particular story stands out—it’s about foster kids. It tells the story of Mercediz Hand, a foster child who discovered someone had been using her identity since she was 10, taking out a mortgage and racking up $3,000 in unpaid cellphone bills. As a result, her credit was ruined before she had a chance to rent an apartment, get a student loan, or any of the things that young adults need to use their credit for.
Experts say foster children are particularly vulnerable to identity theft because their personal information passes through many hands, increasing the chances their Social Security numbers will be used to commit fraud. Thieves are stealing children’s unblemished Social Security numbers to take out credit cards, car loans and mortgages, thus destroying the credit histories of young adults.
Fortunately, lawmakers and child welfare advocates are looking at ways to protect the financial reputations of foster children and prevent child identity theft. President Obama recently signed a law with a provision that requires all states to run credit checks on older foster children and help resolve cases of identity theft before they age out of the system. However, this does not address the real problem—that foster children’s Social Security numbers are overexposed.
Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) has introduced legislation, the Foster Youth Financial Security Act, that goes further by prohibiting states from using Social Security numbers to identify foster children. The bill, which is still pending, would help protect foster children from identity theft by reducing the public exposure of their sensitive information.
For more information and to watch the series, check out this Huffington Post article.
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Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Approximately 8.6 million households had at least one person age 12 or older who experienced identity theft victimization in 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). This is a huge increase, as only 6.4 million households were victimized in 2005.
Identity theft means that someone tried to use another person’s personal or financial information to open a new account or for another fraudulent purpose, such as using a Social Security number to get a job or medical services.
The report reveals that:
• The number of households experiencing the misuse of an existing credit card rose from about 3.6 million in 2005 to 5.5 million in 2010.
• The percentage of victimized households (about 35%) experiencing the misuse of an existing account other than a credit card—such as a banking, savings or utility account—was unchanged from 2005 to 2010.
• The percentage of victimized households experiencing the misuse of personal information to open a new account or commit another crime declined from 23 percent to 14 percent during this period.
• U.S. households experienced about $13.3 billion in direct financial losses due to identity theft in 2010. Among households with losses of at least one dollar, the average loss was about $2,200.
• The misuse of personal information to open a new account represented nearly 30 percent of the total direct financial loss, although fewer than 10 percent of victimized households experienced this type of identity theft. These households lost on average nearly $13,200.
• The misuse of existing credit cards accounted for 32 percent of the total financial loss while this type of identity theft represented 54 percent of such victimizations overall.
These findings are based on data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), an annual survey of about 46,000 households nationwide that collects information on crimes reported and not reported to the police. Findings on identity theft are based on the reports by the head of each household on the experiences of all household members age 12 or older.
The report, Identity Theft Reported by Households, 2005-2010 (NCJ 236245), was written by BJS statistician Lynn Langton. Following publication, the report can be found at http://www.bjs.gov.
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