Identity Theft and Fraud
As the internet and online programs become more powerful and cyber criminals become more savvy, we will make every effort to keep you informed of the latest information on protecting your computers, networks and clients. Here are two important system changes to be aware of.
Beginning January 14, 2020, Windows 7 will reach "end of life". What this means is Microsoft will stop sending critical security patches and updates and providing technical assistance. While you will be able to operate PCs using Windows 7, they will become increasingly vulnerable to security risks and viruses. Microsoft will support Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 with the latest security updates.
Windows Server 2008 will also reach "end of life". The server and networks will become vulnerable to cyberattacks. Without security updates, hackers will be able to find and exploit weaknesses.
What You Should Be Doing Now!
- Give yourself plenty of time to test applications and user experiences
- Check hardware compatibility, not just computers but printers, scanners, etc.
- Check software/systems compatibility
- Create a security plan to separate critical systems that need to run on Windows 7 devices from the Internet
- Employee training on Windows 10
We urge you to discuss with your IT department or IT consultants to plan and prepare for the transition if necessary.
Click here to view an article with more information.
Click here for an Identity Theft Recovery Plan
Click here for Cybersecurity Tips for Small Businesses
Corporate Account Take Over
An alarming cybercrime now affecting small to medium sized businesses is “corporate account take over.” This involves cyber criminals penetrating the computer network of a business and spreading malicious software, such as a “keylogger” which records the words typed, Web browsing history, passwords and other private information. This in turn allows them access to programs using your log-in credentials.
If they steal your password and breach your online banking system, the cybercriminal can begin an online session to initiate funds transfers, by ACH or wire transfer, to their accomplices. The accomplices withdraw the money almost immediately.
Business Email Compromise
A Business Email Compromise is a type of phishing attack that involves criminals impersonating an employee or executive at an organization or a trusted vendor, such as your bank, in order to gain access to funds or sensitive information. These attacks target small to medium sized businesses, not just large companies.
Review these tips to detect these types of emails:
- It appears to come from the email address of a trusted client, vendor, company executive, or even the CEO; or from your own company employee.
- Stresses unnecessary urgency.
- Asks for a funds transfer, a bank check, sensitive personal data or account data.
- States payment has failed and needs credit card information.
- Asks to change vendor payee or remittance information.
You can follow these important tips at your business to avoid these types of scams:
- Always voice verify any transfer of funds or account/invoice changes directly using information that you already have on file.
- Look closely at the senders email address to determine if it might be fake.
- Use multi-factor authentication for funds transfers and money requests.
- Follow safe password practices – use strong, complex passwords.
- Protect office systems by installing a malware, anti-virus solutions and keeping them up-t0-date.
- Protect email correspondence by using a strong spam filter.
- Require training for all staff on phishing techniques to raise awareness.
- Share this information with other employees and IT staff!!
Identity is becoming more sophisticated and the number of new victims is growing. A consumer’s identity can be stolen by simply stealing information from your mail or garbage or through sophisticated phone and online schemes. Identity thieves need only to obtain your name, address, an account number and/or your social security number to take over your identity.
As a consumer, you can avoid identity theft by being aware of the various schemes and consciously taking basic precautions.
Common Ways Your Identity Can Be Stolen
- On the Internet – through “phishing” or “spam” emails and leaving personal information on unsecured websites.
- Social Media - Social networking sites are becoming more popular attack avenues for cybercriminals because people trust those they believe to be “friends”. These cybercriminals use that trust to upload malicious software onto your computer and to try and gather personal information. Caution should be used when on these sites.
Using social engineering techniques, these scammers manipulate people into entering fraudulent sites or clicking on links to spread viruses or reveal confidential information.
- “Dumpster Diving” – people that go through your garbage cans or a communal dumpster to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements.
- Through your mail – be conscience of bank and credit statements and preapproved credit card applications.
"Phishing" is a scam that involves identity thieves “fishing” for your personal and financial information. This is how it works:
- A consumer receives an e-mail which appears to originate from a financial institution, government business, or other well-known/reputable entity.
- The message describes an urgent reason you must "verify" or "re-submit" personal or confidential information by clicking on a link embedded in the message.
- The provided link appears to be the Web site of the financial institution, government business or other well-known/reputable entity, but in "phishing" scams, the Web site has been spoofed and belongs to the fraudster/scammer.
- Once inside the fraudulent Web site, the consumer may be asked to provide Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords or other information used to identify the consumer, such as the maiden name of the consumer's mother or the consumer's place of birth.
Other phishing scams include text messages - called "smishing", phone calls or recorded messages requesting verification of your credit card or bank account information and emails that are job offers, surveys, prizes & awards, gift certificates, sponsors or charities or money laundering schemes.
How to Protect Yourself
- Phishing - Be vigilant and look for these warning signs:
- The sender is unknown
- Stresses unnecessary urgency
- Email contains a suspicious URL
- The title of the email doesn’t make sense
- There is improper spelling or grammar
- The offer seems too good to be true
- You didn’t initiate the action
- Message makes unrealistic threats (your account has been compromised, your account will be close, your account will be suspended, etc.)
2. Dumpster Diving – be sure to shred or properly dispose of documents with personal information including account numbers.
Malware is malicious software such as viruses and spyware that are designed to steal personal information and spread spam. Criminals lure you into clicking on links that will spread the malware to your PC gaining access to your computer - giving criminals access to sensitive information or disrupting your computer’s operation. Most times, you won’t even know it’s there.
- Spyware “Spyware” is a type of malicious software installed on your computer without your knowledge. It collects small pieces of personal information including Internet surfing habits and sites visited. It also can redirect web browser activity and change computer settings. Spyware is typically hidden from the user, and can be difficult to detect once installed. Spyware can be installed on computers via fraudulent emails, legitimate software download or pop-up windows. These messages masquerade and try to be as legitimate looking as possible.
- Keystroke Logging As with spyware, keyloggers are installed on your computer without your knowledge. It is the action of tracking (or logging) the keys struck on a keyboard, typically in a hidden manner so that the person using the keyboard is unaware that their actions are being monitored. Keystroke logging can record the words typed, Web browsing history, passwords and other private information. This is extremely dangerous in all aspects of computer usage, especially with financial information.
- Scareware “Scareware” is a term to describe an attempt to scare a person, via pop-ups, into believing their computer was scanned and has a virus. These pop-ups contain frivolous and alarming warnings or threats and are especially designed to look like they come from the user's operating system.
The fake scan concludes that the user's computer has a malware infection and says to fix it the user must download antivirus software and the cost is as much as $50. What the user usually gets is a form of malware that actually does infect the computer. Not to mention being out the fee!
“Ransomware” is an attack carried out using secretly installed malware that encrypts the victim's files and then requests a ransom payment in return for the decryption key that is needed to recover the encrypted files. It is on your computer because you have most likely clicked on an infected popup advertisement or an infected link in an email. The bad guys hold your computer hostage and attempt to extort payment.
The criminals often ask for a small payment, assuming you will be willing to pay to avoid the aggregation of dealing with the virus. They may ask for as little as $10 to be wired through Western Union, paid through a premium text message or sent through a form of online cash. Business are often ask for payment in Bitcoin. Paying the ransom is no guarantee that your computer will be restored. Protect yourself from ransomware by using reputable antivirus software, back up often to an external hard drive or cloud, enable your popup blocker and use common sense when clicking on advertisements or email links.
Please consider the following to keep your computer safe:
- Protect your computers with a strong anti-virus/anti-spyware/anti-spam software program and make sure they are updated on a daily basis at a minimum and note the expiration date. Anti-virus software alone is not sufficient to protect your systems from today’s complicated techniques. Most identity theft problems originate with spyware.
- For Windows users, please be sure the Windows Firewall Service is turned on and your computer is up to date with critical patches. Configure Windows Update to check for these critical updates automatically.
- Strongly consider the use of a hardware based firewall product. These products are designed to protect all your computers from attackers before it reaches your PC. Typically they also provide anti-spyware and anti-virus capability as well. Stopping the intrusion before a threat arrives at your PC is one of the best measures you can take to avoid infecting your computer.
- Don’t trust any email from any source that is asking for or attempting to verify personal information, account numbers, etc.
- If your business utilizes an online banking system, you should consider using an additional layer of security called token-based authentication. The security token, provided by your financial institution, is a small hand held device that generates a unique, random password that is required for certain transactions. These transactions are blocked without the physical possession of the token.
In addition to identity theft, consumers should also be aware of other scams that attempt to trick individuals into giving them money. Many of these include counterfeit cashier’s checks.
- Notification you have won a lottery and once you pay a "processing" fee or transfer charge, you will receive the money. The fraudster takes your money and you never get your "winnings".
- Emails from overseas seeking your help to cash a check - You are instructed to cash the check, keep a portion for yourself and send a check to them for the difference.
- An offer to purchase an item you are selling online and sending a check for more than the purchase price. Then you are asked to cash the check and send them the difference.
- After you’ve sent the money, you learn that the check you cashed is counterfeit and the bank has offset the amount of the check against other funds in your account.
How can you avoid these types of fraud?
- If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not true!!
- Be wary of any offer that requires you to wire money or withdraw cash from your account.
- Contact the issuing bank to attempt to verify the validity of the cashier’s check before depositing the item. Do not use a phone number that is listed on the check or in a letter or email in question.
Cell Phone Safety
If you’ve lost or have had your cell phone stolen and haven't setup any security at all, your contacts, personal confidential documents, and calendar are free for the viewing. You don't want some criminal knowing you won't be home for the weekend and the rest of your personal business! With identity theft getting worse, here are 15 simple tips that can make having your phone lost or stolen a little easier to deal with and with a lot less stress!
- Protect your data in case of theft. Because they're so portable, the biggest threat to a mobile device is loss or theft. Several mobile products offer features to locate and recover a lost or stolen phone. Typically they also include the ability to lock the phone, make the phone flash and scream even if the volume is turned off, and wipe out all private data if it can't be recovered. There are also programs available that allow you to remotely lock and wipe the phone by sending a text message. Some are free for locate usage with lock and wipe features paid, but in general are very low cost.
- Lock your phone. Setup a PIN or complex pattern to gain access to the phone. Use the maximum amount of characters allowed and set the PIN/pattern required timeout to no more than 10 minutes.
- Encrypt data. Install an encryption app if confidential data must be accessed or stored using a mobile device, but you should avoid using or storing confidential data whenever possible.
- Use anti-virus/malware programs. Most people run anti-virus programs on their home and work computers but neglect to on their phones. Apps are available that let you scan your phone for malware, provide a safer internet browsing functionality, (i.e. will block known phishing sites that look legit), and backup and restore your data online. These apps scan other apps, settings, media and phone contents in search of suspicious files and as files or apps are being downloaded. Many of them are free and work very well.
- Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks and disable Wi-Fi when not in use. When you're not using them, it's best to disable features like Bluetooth, infrared or Wi-Fi. By doing so you'll get longer battery life! Avoid joining unknown Wi-Fi networks when you need to connect. If you must, limit your activity to non-commerce usage.
- Review and set privacy settings. Many apps have privacy settings within the app itself, typically in the "settings" or "privacy" tab. The settings can manage activities like whether the app can access your local information. Check the privacy default settings to make sure you agree with them, if not get rid of them. You can also review the privacy settings for your device's operating system. For example, you can turn off the phone's ability to geo-locate you, (aka location services), or create a password to protect the phone. Delete any app that you consider invasive.
- Never unlock or "jailbreak" the default security settings. While some sites may promote the use of unauthorized applications, games, etc., the end result is the same - you've left your device open for criminals to abuse with targeted mobile malware. You should never override the security settings in your tablet or phone, especially if you plan to access personal or business email, mobile banking or other sensitive information on the Internet.
- Replace your phone properly. Many wireless providers offer programs to upgrade your phone every couple of years. If you decide to get the latest model, be sure to delete all information stored in your device before discarding, exchanging or donating it. Perform a "hard reset" of the device which will return your phone to the original factory image and defaults and remove all data and apps. If your device has a removable SD card, be sure it is also erased.
- Never "root" your phone. Rooting your phone leaves you open to incursion from criminals, eliminates the ability to receive support from the vendor/carrier, and in some cases can damage the phone.
- Call your provider. If your phone is lost or stolen, call your provider and have them add your phone to the lost and stolen list. By doing this, a criminal can never reactivate the phone.
- Call your cell provider if you are buying a used or reconditioned cell phone from a third party, (i.e. EBay, Craigslist, etc.). If you're not eligible for an upgrade or didn't have insurance on your phone, it is enticing and far more inexpensive to search the web for a used or reconditioned phone from someone other than your carrier. The private seller should have no issue providing you with the EIN, (serial number) of the device they are selling and if they won't....RUN, you're probably buying a stolen phone! With any used or refurbished phone from anyone other than your provider, call your carrier and this way they can tell you if the device is on the lost/stolen list or already activated on someone else's account! I can't tell you how many people unknowingly buy a stolen phone or tablet.
- Backup, Backup, Backup. There are so many options and it is so much easier to do than even a year ago. Most carriers offer a free to low-cost backup service as well as most anti-malware vendors.
- Contact your employer. If your phone was configured by your IT department for access to email, custom apps, etc. Let them know you have lost your phone or it's been stolen. They can help you reset other work related passwords to avoid having lost or compromised corporate data.
Review your credit report annually. AnnualCreditReport.com provides consumers with the secure means to request and obtain a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act). You can also contact each credit bureau separately.
Equifax PO Box 740241 Atlanta, GA 30374 To report Fraud: (800) 525-6285 To order a credit report (800) 685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian PO Box 2002 Allen, TX 75013 To report Fraud: (888) 397-3742 To order a Credit Report: (888) 397-3742 www.experian.com
TransUnion PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19022 To report fraud: (800) 680-7289 To order a credit report: (800) 888-4213 www.transunion.com
If You Become a Victim
If you are a victim of identity theft you should contact the proper authorities immediately.
- Contact creditors or financial institutions for any accounts that may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus.
- File a report with your local police.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.com or 1-877-IDTHEFT.
- File a complaint with the FBI”s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov.