Archive for January, 2012
Monday, January 30th, 2012
Have you heard about Facebook’s new Timeline layout? If not, you soon will. The social network is making the Timeline mandatory so soon everyone will have it—like it or not. The new features put your privacy at risk so we suggest you take a look at your new Timeline and do what you can to protect your privacy.
Timeline makes everything you’ve ever done on Facebook—from posting a photo to “liking” a post to attending an event—visible in chronological order. And now it defaults all your posts to “Public” so the whole world can see them, unless you specifically change your privacy settings to do otherwise.
To make sure your past posts are limited to friends, click on the small arrow on the top right corner of your Timeline. Then go to Privacy Settings>> Limit the Audience for Past Posts>>Manage Past Post Visibility and select Limit Old Posts. You can also change the audience by clicking on the small pencil icon at the top right of individual posts to edit or hide them from the Timeline.
Timeline also encourages users is add events from your past to your profile, in an effort to create a scrapbook of your entire life. From life events, such as marriage, to employment events, such as a new job or promotion, Facebook wants you to add it all. While Facebook wants users to think they’re doing this to create a richer online experience for users, it’s more likely so they can better target ads. Regardless of the reason, including such information makes it easier for criminals to profile people and piece together bits and pieces of personal information about them. This info can be used to conduct phishing scams or other identity theft scams.
Before Timeline rolls out completely, take some time this week to learn about it and how to protect your privacy as best you can.
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Friday, January 27th, 2012
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) released their Top Ten industries for customer complaints and inquiries, according to their final statistics for 2011. Based on their stats, they’ve predicted that identity theft will be one of the biggest scams in 2012. Because the BBB receives so many calls regarding phony operations posing as trustworthy businesses or charities, the staff has valuable insight into current scams. In 2012, the BBB warns that consumers should look out for these types of scams:
• Text Scams: Consumers receive texts that appear to come from their bank or credit card provider, saying there’s a problem with their account. They’re told to call an 800 number and provide account information or personal information; however, the messages are fraudulent and any information you provide could lead to identity theft.
• Hotel Scams: Hotel guests are contacted in the middle of the night by someone claiming to be at the front desk and saying there was a problem with their credit card. Tired guests who provide the requested information discover the next day it was not the front desk who contacted them and their credit card information has been compromised.
Social Media Scams: With more and more people opening social media accounts, scammers are trying everything they can to steal identities on Facebook. When accessing Facebook or Twitter, people should be very leery of instant messages from contacts – friends or family – asking for money, saying they are in trouble and need financial help. Typically, the contact’s account has been hacked and your friend or family member is fine and unaware their profile is being used to conduct scams.
These types of scams are nothing new but they should serve as a reminder that we need to be extra careful when using our phones and computers to communicate with others.
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Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Getting ready for tax season? Make sure your tax documents are ready and, of course, safe. As you go through these documents and see what you need, we hope you’ll take the time to consider the important of keeping this data safe and private.
To help alleviate the pressure of doing your taxes, here’s a list of what you’ll need:
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider: Name, address and tax I.D. or Social Security Number
Alimony paid: Social Security Number
Employment & Income Data
W-2 forms for this year
Unemployment compensation: Forms 1099-G
Miscellaneous income including rent: Forms 1099-MISC
Partnership, S Corporation, & trust income: Schedules K-1
Pensions and annuities: Forms 1099-R
Social Security/RR1 benefits: Forms RRB-1099
Jury duty pay
Gambling and lottery winning
Prizes and awards
Scholarships and fellowships
State and local income tax refunds: Form 1099-G
Residential address(es) for this year
Mortgage interest: Form 1098
Sale of your home or other real estate: Form 1099-S
Second mortgage interest paid
Real estate taxes paid
Rent paid during tax year
Interest income statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID
Dividend income statements: Form 1099-DIV
Proceeds from broker transactions: Form 1099-B
Retirement plan distribution: Form 1099-R
Auto loans and leases (account numbers and car value) if vehicle used for business
Student loan interest paid
Early withdrawal penalties on CDs and other time deposits
Personal property tax information
Gifts to charity (qualified written statement from charity for any single donations of $250 or more)
Unreimbursed expenses related to volunteer work
Unreimbursed expenses related to your job (travel expenses, uniforms, union dues, subscriptions)
Job-related education expenses
Child care expenses
Medical Savings Accounts
Tax return preparation expenses and fees
Business income: Forms 1099-MISC and/or own records
Partnership SE income: Schedules K-1
Business-related expenses: Receipts, other documents & own records
Farm-related expenses: Receipts, other documents & own records
Employment taxes & other business taxes paid for current year: Payment records
Miscellaneous Tax Documents
Federal, state & local estimated income tax paid for current year: Estimated tax vouchers, cancelled checks & other payment records
IRA, Keogh and other retirement plan contributions: If self-employed, identify as for self or employees
Records to document medical expenses
Records to document casualty or theft losses
Records for any other expenditures that may be deductible
Records for any other revenue or sales of property that may be taxable or reportable
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Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
According to BBC News, mobile service provider O2 admitted it unwittingly exposed the mobile numbers of smartphone-toting customers who connected to the Internet over the company’s network.
The company issued an apology for a technical problem which caused users’ phone numbers to be disclosed when using its mobile data. A problem during routine maintenance meant that numbers could have been seen by other websites for about two weeks.
Lewis Peckover, a system administrator for a mobile gaming company, publicly exposed the flaw when he set up an online script which allows users to see if their number is revealed. He said he was “absolutely shocked” by the discovery.
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Monday, January 23rd, 2012
Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s twitter account was hacked by the group “Anonymous,” protesting two major anti-piracy bills–the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
ABC News reported that the hackers sent tweets from the Senator’s account, saying, “Dear Iowans, vote against ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA, because this man, Chuck Grassley, wants YOUR Internet censored and all of that BS.”
The group Anonymous has protested the two anti-piracy bills publicly. Using the name “OpDonkeyPunch,” the group claims on their chat rooms and on Twitter they are mounting the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on members of Congress, following last week’s coordinated Internet blackout on some websites, such as Wikipedia, against the bills.
Last week Grassley reversed his support for the Senate’s anti-piracy bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), starting that while there needs to be a way to stem Internet piracy the Senate bill needs “substantial changes.” In light of last week’s protests and numerous senators pulling their support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday delayed a vote on the bill in order to resolve the problems with the bill.
All erroneous hacked tweets have been since deleted from the Senator’s account.
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Thursday, January 19th, 2012
Identity thieves have no boundaries, as proven in this recent story by the Huffington Post about a woman named Julie Chambers, who lost her 2-year-old daughter, Zoe, in 2008. Recently, she was shocked to find a fraudulent Facebook page with pictures of herself and her daughter, Zoe, asking for donations for a transplant for Zoe, who was born with a heart valve that was too narrow.
“It would have been hard enough to handle if Zoe had been alive, but she isn’t with us,” Chambers, 37, said. “She’s dead and someone has used her picture to con people out of money.”
The Facebook page, traced back to Jamaica, asked visitors to “share” the link, which would result in a free heart transplant if 1,000 people shared the link. The page also asked people to send donations to a personal PayPal account. Chambers contacted the police but was told she didn’t have a case since money hasn’t been directly stolen from her.
More than 140,000 children are victims of identity theft each year, ID Analytics estimates. In many cases, an identity thief will steal a deceased child’s Social Security number because it’s easy to access and usually they don’t get caught. The fast turnover between death and theft might happen when the Social Security Administration publishes the social security number and other information in its “Death Master File.” These pieces of the child’s identity can be bought by genealogy websites and other subscribers, who can publish the information online.
Until laws prevent identity thieves from conducting such heinous crimes, be careful when making donations.
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Google has officially joined the January 18th anti-SOPA protest. The company will be displaying an anti-SOPA message during the blackout. Google will not actually be blacking out, but instead will display a link to an anti-SOPA, anti-PIPA message on its homepage.
CNET quotes a Google spokeswoman as explaining the company’s decision:
“Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet. So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our US home page.”
Read more about the anti-SOPA protests: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sopa-protests-planned-by-google-wikipedia-and-others-on-jan-18/2012/01/17/gIQALKBL6P_story.html
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Amazon and Zappos (an online shoe store) were the target of hackers this weekend. The names, addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit cards from around 24 million customer accounts were hacked. Zappos says if you’re affected, they’ll notify you. It also says the info does not include full credit card numbers. The website is currently forcing all customers to change their passwords.If the same password is used on other web sites, then it should also be changed, the company recommended.
Even if the full credit card information wasn’t accessed, bits and pieces about a customer can be used to ‘de-anonymize’ other databases on other websites, invading customer privacy. In addition, fraudsters will likely use the personal information to send phishing e-mails purporting to come from a legitimate company.
If you’re one of the 24 million victims, be sure to exercise caution if you receive requests for personal data via email or phone.
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Sunday, January 15th, 2012
Phishing scams are everywhere nowadays, but many people still don’t know what they are. They’re very much like what they sound like—identity thieves fishing for your personal information. Your Social Security number is the big catch, but they’ll happily reel smaller catch like your name, address, credit card details, and PIN codes.
A typical phishing scam starts with a scammer sending out millions of emails that appear to come from an established bank or online retailer, perhaps mimicking its brand, logo, and graphic design. Then they ask you for sensitive information. In some (but not all) cases, the scam is made to look even more convincing by linking you to an actual websites(phony, of course), before asking to reveal your information.
For example, youmight receive an email that appears to come from a major bank, warning you that recent fraud activity has jeopardized the security of your account. Alarmed, you quickly click the link that takes you to a fake—but very convincing looking– website, where you go ahead and enter your bank account number as requested. Any personal or financial information you entered is now in the hands of identity thieves.
If you’re thinking, “They won’t fool me,” don’t be so sure. True, some phishing efforts are full of misspellings and have “fake” written all over them, but the more sophisticated ones use tactics like:
• Using the names of real people who work at the company, such as CEOs or well-known executives, in the text of the message or in the “from” line
• Making a link in an email (and the spoofed website it redirects to) appear legitimate, for example by inserting a URLthat’s only slightly misspelled, a letter or two away from the real one.. Another tactic is to make the text in a link appear to be a valid URL when the link actually goes to another URL for a phony site.
• Scaring you with urgent messages, for example warnings that you’ll lose access to your account unless you respond immediately.
These clever tactics are paying off for phishers. The number of American adults who believe that they’ve received phishing emails nearly doubled between 200x and 200x. Approximately 109 million U.S. adults received phishing emails in 2006, up from 57 million in 2004. Financial losses stemming from phishing attacks rose to more than $2.8 billion in 2006.
Here are three simple tips to help protect you from phishing scams:
1. Make sure you update your software with whatever automatic updates your company recommends—don’t delay, don’t linger.
2. Use different layers of security. Don’t assume that one type of security will protect you. Use anti-virus, anti-malware, and identity protection.
3. Remember that there’s no such thing as free lunch on Internet. If someone’s offering something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Use common sense and don’t hand over your personal information.
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Friday, January 13th, 2012
Federal authorities in Minnesota are charging a large group from the Twin Cities suspected of identity theft, bank fraud and money laundering activities that spread out to at least a dozen states and stole at least $2 million.
To date, eight people have been charged in the alleged conspiracy in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, and several have entered guilty pleas and are cooperating with prosecutors. Sources close to the investigation say they expect about 20 plea bargains, and a dozen or more people to be charged by grand jury indictments soon.
The group obtained fake identification documents and counterfeit checks from a group that prosecutors call “the Known Conspirators in Minnesota.” They are charged with using counterfeit checks to buy merchandise between December 2007 and December 2009 at retail outlets in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota and Illinois. The goods were returned for cash, and the proceeds were split among the group.
Sources say more than 120 people may have been involved. They’d pilfer financial information and identities from cars, businesses, trash cans and mail boxes, and obtained some information from bank employees.
As a group, the defendants have prior convictions ranging from theft by swindle to identity theft, assault, drugs, forgeries and receiving stolen property.
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