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ID theft

All about how it happens and how you can keep it from happening to you.

November 2011 - Posts

  • Cyber Monday sales up – Along with scam attempts

    The U.S. Justice Department celebrated Cyber Monday in its own way this year – by shutting down 150 websites selling counterfeit goods ranging from sports jerseys to handbags to the P90X exercise program.


    According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 123 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday, up nearly 15 percent from last year. Cyber Monday now rivals Black Friday in popularity and in sales. 


    But with this growth comes an increase of risk for consumers. Many consumers are fooled into buying fraudulent merchandise or become victims of identity theft. The Obama administration is expected to launch a public awareness campaign today on intellectual property theft. According to government data, federal agencies seized $188 million in counterfeit products last year. 


    To avoid falling victim to these types of scams during the holiday season and beyond, consumers should watch for inaccurate grammar and frequent misspellings on sites, and make sure that contact information on that particular business is posted on the site. 


    Consumers should also be wary of online contest, because by entering them, consumers may unwittingly unleash viruses that can compromise their computers' safety. Consumers are also advised to keep an eye on their credit reports for any signs of fraud, and to watch their bank and credit card statements carefully as well.


    Be careful with your personal and financial information this holiday season. And remember, don't chat about or post your holiday plans on social networking sites. Don't forget that criminals have Facebook profiles, too.

    Posted Nov 29 2011, 12:05 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Watch out for holiday scams this season

    Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and immediately after is the day shoppers everywhere wait for each year – Black Friday. Shoppers will be out in droves and the holiday shopping season will officially be underway. 


    When the rush to get the perfect gifts for everyone on your list gets into full swing, it becomes a lot easier to become complacent about identity theft. But don't forget: the threat is still very real, and identity thieves are counting on you to be less than vigilant during the holidays. Here are a list of this year's top scams – things you should be on the lookout this season.


    1. Mobile malware, which is targeted specifically at smartphones.


    2. Malicious phone apps for your smartphone that contain malware.


    3. Phony Facebook promotions and contests will abound. Don't click on links or giveaways.


    4. Scareware and fake viruses will come your way as windows pop up on your computer screen, telling you that you have a virus. 


    5. Holiday screensavers – everyone loves them. But if you download one from a questionable source, you could also get some malware. 


    7. If you have a Mac, be aware that there are new forms of Mac malware out there. Keep your eyes peeled, and don't click on an unsolicited offers.


    8. Phishing scams will increase during the holidays, with phony notices from UPS and banks.


    9. Online coupon scams will come your way promising free iPads and coupons, but require you to submit your credit card or banking information – don't be fooled.


    10. "It" gift scams are what criminals will use to cash in on the hottest gifts of the year. 


    Here's the best tip you'll get all year: If you get an unsolicited offer, e-mail, text from an unknown source or pop-up window, don't click on anything contained within it. You will very likely regret it.


    Posted Nov 22 2011, 10:35 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Google Plus business page apparently hacked

    Occupy Wall Street protesters have gone high tech, with some hacking and attacking those they feel are responsible for their situation.


    According to reports, Bank of America's web page on Google Plus appears to have been hacked, and it doesn't look like B of A people are behind the page either. The page actually appears to have been created by attackers, seeking to trick Google into giving them a business page under B of A's identity. 


    The introduction says things like, "We took your bailout money and your mortgage rates are going up," and "We are committed to making as much money as possible from usury, coercion, bribery, insider trading, extortion and debit card fees as possible."


    There are also several posts that are snarky and an obvious attempt to cast a negative light on the bank. 


    The posts appear to have begun after Nov. 8, right after Google launched the official service for businesses. 


    There hasn't been a lot of reported abuse on the Google Plus service, but this has got to be just the beginning. Google has a real names-only policy, but their verification process obviously has some major holes. 

    Posted Nov 15 2011, 11:50 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Don't fall for PayPal phishing scam

    A new phishing scam is making the rounds – and if you use PayPal, you could fall victim.


    The e-mail looks like it is from PayPal's account review team, and states that the site's security system has "blocked unusual charges to a credit card linked to your account." The message further states that there has been an intrusion to the e-mail recipient's account, and it appears that someone has tried to use your account. The e-mail contains a handy attachment which, after you download it, will allow you to enter information and take steps to "restore your account success."


    When you receive a message such as this, you would immediately want to make sure your account is safe and the emotional rush that comes in a moment like this can cloud your judgment. 


    PayPal has the controls in place to prevent fraudulent transactions, but their system isn't foolproof. This is where this particular scam shows its effectiveness. Since you trust PayPal to protect your account, and the scam e-mail says PayPal has locked your account for your protection, you're more apt to fall for it.


    The information requested in this scam includes cardholder name, birth date, mother's maiden name, Social Security number and home telephone number.  It also asks for your home address. The form does not ask for a PayPal e-mail address.


    When you receive e-mails and you don't know where they came from, do not click on links included in the e-mail or download anything. If you are unsure whether it came from the source it claims, contact the source directly and ask. In this case, you could look up PayPal and contact them directly, using contact information from PayPal's official site, not from the e-mail you received. 


    The best advice when you receive unsolicited e-mails? When in doubt, don't. 

    Posted Nov 08 2011, 11:08 AM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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  • Researchers illustrate the ease of stealing information from Facebook

    Researchers from the University of British Columbia released a paper recently entitled "The Socialbot Network: When Bots Socialise for Fame and Money." The paper makes the claim that Facebook's in-built security systems are not effective at stopping automated identity theft. The researchers ran a large-scale infiltration of the network using socialbots.


    During the test, researchers said they were able to collect private data from thousands of Facebook users and infiltrate their friend networks using socialbots. A socialbot is automated software that can control a social networking account and perform basic functions like posting messages and friend requests. The bots pass themselves off as being a human being rather than computer code.


    Facebook does have in place precautions that are supposed to avoid the automated creation of accounts, specifically the use of CAPTCHAs, but researchers accounted for that, saying they used online services to break them. They also created status updates using an API provided by a website that provided random quotes automatically. 


    The scary part is that socialbots can be used to harvest personal information like e-mail addresses and phone numbers. One person can use several socialbots and control the information and social profiles of several people.


    The process went like this: A Facebook user gets a friend request from someone and accepts it. If the bot was already listed as a "friend of a friend," the bot was accepted much more quickly at new friend requests. Once the connection is made, researchers were able to gather personal information not only from the new "friend," but also from that user's network of friends. 


    Clearly, this shows the importance of being careful about who you accept as friends on social networks. It also shows that Facebook has a long way to go when it comes to its in-built security systems, which are supposed to protect users from this type of thing. It's an alarming thing, said researchers, how easy it is to automate identity theft on Facebook.

    Posted Nov 01 2011, 12:08 PM by IdentityTheft with no comments
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