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Identity Theft – A Brief Tutorial

Happy New Year!

2015 was a challenging year on many fronts, not the least of which was the concern around Identity Theft.

Over 100 million Americans have their personal information placed at risk of identity theft every year. Every day there is a new report of a security breach hitting a retailer, credit card provider, and even the government. Yesterday, Time Warner Cable reported that was it was recently notified by the FBI that “some of our customers’ email addresses, including account passwords, may have been compromised.“.

The most common cause of identity theft occurs when someone obtains personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, drivers’ licenses, and credit cards.

While it is impossible to avoid being the victim of Identity Theft, there are a number of steps that can be taken to minimize the risk.

Passwords

– Do not use the same password for e-mail, social networks (Facebook), online banking, retail sites (Amazon), online backups, etc.

– Do not use easy to guess passwords such as birth dates, spouses and childrens’ names.

– Change your passwords every few months.

– Use a strong and unique password for each frequented online website. A password made up of a phrase such as “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$” combines capital letters, small letters and symbols and is easy to remember. Personalize for a particular site by taking a few letters from the site and adding it to the password. An Amazon password would be “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$Ama.” Your email password would be “IDon’tLikePasswords$$$email.

Credit and Debit Cards

– Use credit cards when possible. At least you can challenge a charge if your credit card account is hacked. If you use your debit card, funds are transferred immediately and it can be difficult to get your money back.

– Delete saved credit card numbers. To safeguard against data breaches, remove credit card numbers on file with retailers and enter them with each purchase. We have read about data breaches from major retailer data banks.

Social Security numbers and birth dates

– Make birth dates (year) private on Facebook. Hackers glean personal information, such as age and location, from social media accounts in an effort to piece together social security numbers. By keeping birth dates private and opting to mail birthday wishes, identity thieves have one less resource.

– Avoid including social security numbers online (emails, text messages, filling out forms). Social security numbers are the major source for hackers. When asked for identification, offer other means of proof..

Virus and Malware Protection 

– Remove old anti-virus and anti-malware software and install updated versions. Keep devices safe and secure with the latest software and security patches as soon as they are available. Keystroke logging malware can invade devices with weak security and capture credit card information.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

– Do not access any sites requiring passwords from unsecured wi-fi locations such as hotels, airports, coffee shops, parks, etc. An unsecured wi-fi network is one that does not require a network code.

These are just a few ways you can minimize your risk of identity theft. Several months ago interviewed Steve Weisman, one of the country’s leading experts on scams and identity theft, on my BlogTalkRadio program. The first interview featured a discussion on Why You Should Be Concerned About Identity Theft, and the second, What You Need to Do If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft  Each of the programs are about 15 minutes long. Both interviews were among my most listened to shows of the year.

If you missed them, click on the links below to listen to the interviews.

Why You Should Be Concerned About Identity Theft 

What You Need to Do If You Are A Victim of Identity Theft

There seems to be a report of a new data breach or threat almost daily. Check the article about Time Warner above. Be diligent!!

If after listening to the interviews, you want to discuss any of the points covered, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Has Your E-Mail Been Hacked?

Are your friends complaining about random e-mails from you containing only a link or asking for money since you have been stranded on some remote island? If so, chances are that your e-mail program has been “hacked,” meaning that someone has accessed your contact list and sent messages to everyone on your list. Here are some simple rules to follow to minimize the risk that this will happen to you.

1. If you have been hacked, change your password immediately. Don’t use simple passwords such as birthdays, phone numbers or family names. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

2, Change your password frequently; monthly, if you are using AOL

3. Do not use the same password for your e-mail program, online banking, or shopping sites like Amazon, Ebay, etc.

4. When accessing the Internet on the road, be sure that the wi-fi location is secured. Places like hotels, parks, and coffee shops like Starbucks, are not secured since everyone has access to their networks. You do not want to enter passwords, credit card info, or other personal information in a non-secured area, since you are using a public access point.

5. If you are using a Windows computer, make sure you have installed both an anti-virus and malware program and that they have been updated.

If you any questions about “hacking” or other maintenance issues, feel free to contact me either by phone at 917 921-4518 or by e-mail at jblue@bluetutor.com/bluetutorold.

 

 

 

HAVE YOU BEEN A VICTIM OF “PHISHING”?

Have you responded to e-mails or text messages requesting personal information such as passwords, bank account information, credit cards, or social security numbers?  Has your e-mail account been compromised or is your computer now infected with one or more viruses.  If so, you have been victimized by one of the biggest Internet scams called “Phishing.”

Wikipedia defines phishing as “an attempt to acquire information (and sometimes, indirectly, money) such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Communications purporting to be from banks, popular social web sites, auction sites, online payment processors, etc. Phishing is typically carried out by e-mail spoofing or instant messaging and it often directs users to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one.”

Here are some tips on how to avoid phishing.

– Do not respond to any email with urgent requests for personal financial information.

– Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information.

– Do not click on any links in an email, instant message, or chat that leads to a web page if you if you do not know the sender.

– Log in to your online accounts (banks, Ebay, Amazon, retailers) regularly and check for suspicious activity.

If you think you have been a victim of phishing, be sure to:

– Notify your bank if you have given out any credit card information. Cancel your account and open up a new one.

– Report the theft to the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion Corporation, and request that they place a fraud alert and a victim’s statement in your file. Request a free copy of your credit report to determine whether any new accounts were opened without your consent.

– Change your passwords to your online accounts including your e-mail account.

– Make sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date and run a scan of your computer.

If you feel you have been a victim of phishing or your computer appears to be infected with a virus, do not hesitate to contact me at 917 921-4518 or by e-mail at jblue@bluetutor.com. Feel free to click here to receive my NEW white paper, “TIPS ON BECOMING A TRUE MOBILE WARRIOR”