FTC Comes to Grips with ID Theft

It appears that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to step up its approach to combating identity theft and related sorts of fraud.

A June 15, 2011 post on the Commission’s website announces that the FTC considers companies to be obliged to protect their clients’ sensitive information, and “that to minimize the risk of identity theft or other harm, [they] should employ reasonable safeguards to protect consumer information, collect only information for which they have a legitimate business need, and retain data only as long as necessary to fulfill the business purposes for which it was collected.”

The post also reports that the FTC again insisted that Congress enact legislation requiring companies to implement these prescribed measures.

The FTC wholeheartedly supports such legislation, believing it eminently reasonable and entirely amenable to companies’ compliance. After all, what’s the alternative? A web of commercial relations through which sensitive data leaks as if through a sieve?

The FTC supports data security, provided it is effected by the following instrumentalities:

  • Law enforcement;
  • Consumer and business education;
  • Policy initiatives.

Of course, all the support of best practices with respect to data security doesn’t amount to a hill of beans if no law exists to enforce their observance. So why wait for Congress to get around to enacting legislation to protect you and your fellow consumers, when measures exist that you can take right now to protect yourself from ID theft and related crime?

The most decisive action you can take is to secure the services of a well-reviewed identity theft protection or credit monitoring specialist. They offer powerful security of the sort the FTC would strongly recommend.

Computer Security Expert’s Shocking Predictions About the Future of Cyber-Crime

When Russian computer security expert Eugene Kaspersky gazes into his crystal ball, he sees a global Internet police force, laws requiring digital passports for Web users, and cyber-crime as an ineradicable feature of the online environment, a June 15, 2011 EUObserver.com article reports.

The article quotes Kaspersky as saying that cybercrime will remain an intractable problem besetting the Internet for the foreseeable future, being about as easily to eliminate as hooliganism is from soccer matches. And Kaspersky should know; he’s the CEO of the anti-virus software development company Kaspersky Labs.

Kaspersky made his remarks at a security conference put on by the Belgian lobbying group Business Software Alliance, which is concerned about the sorry state computer security currently finds itself in.

The problem as Kaspersky sees it is that anti-virus can detect only relatively simple virus programs. More sophisticated ones go undetected. This means that hackers, phishers, and malware designers have raced ahead of anti-virus designers to seize the advantage. The anti-virus contingent finds itself in a position of only being able to react to the latest sophisticated bug infecting computers, and can offer precious little by way of remedy.

The EU Observer article goes on quote further remarks of Kaspersky’s on the state of cybercrime today. Specifically, Kaspersky observed that

  • Cyber-crooks have enjoyed a real boom over the past half-decade, netting huge bankrolls, expensive property, and deluxe goods;
  • Cyber-crooks don’t see their activities as criminal, because they only target victims who live outside their own countries, and so they consider themselves to be investing in the local economy;
  • Cyber-crooks enjoy the advantage of relative indifference on the part of governments, who are more concerned with preserving national assets and resources than they are with eradicating online crime.

This situation will change, Kaspersky predicts. Laws and restrictions governing Internet use will inevitably come to pass once governments of various nations begin to wake up to the immense problem of cyber-crime.

Of course, with the implementation of such laws and restrictions will come concerns about individual privacy. Yet, as the EUObserver.com article reports, most of Kaspersky’s projected measures won’t be so very different than measures people are already used to — bank account numbers and travel passports, for example. The critical factor rests with technology. How it develops over the next few decades will determine the nature of the secure measures that will be implemented.

Suffice it to say, however, that you don’t have decades to wait for governments to get around to protecting you from cyber-crooks. Identity theft remains an immediate danger, so you must take action on your own. One of the smartest things you can do is to purchase a trusted identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. Either service offers you solid security — which, if Kaspersky is to be believed, is more than can be said about the current state of the art in anti-virus software.

4 Frightening Facts About Smartphone Apps

smartphone appsVeritable Swiss army knives of the digital age, smartphones have come to perform quite a number of functions. Owners use them as wallets and portable computers. This means, of course, that they contain such sensitive information as bank account numbers and social media site login names and stored passwords — which makes them juicy targets for identity thieves, hackers, and assorted cyber-crooks.

A June 14, 2011 Business Insider article reports that these cyber-crooks have step up their game. Screen locks are thus no longer sufficient to keep them from invading your smartphone.

The article presents the case of the recent botnet (a collection of computers that have been infected by the same malware program) epidemic that struck Google Android devices. The malware program Dream Droid was timed to launch at night, when the program’s designers presumed most users would be asleep, to worm into the device’s root directory, where it could not only access just about any desirable data that happened to be in it but also take control of the device itself.

The Dream Droid incident forced Google to engage its controversial “kill switch,” which remotely zaps offending malware without the device user’s even knowing it.

Originally thought to infect 21 apps available for Google Android, Dream Droid was later found to be lurking in 30 more.

The Business Insider article goes on to present 4 truly frightening facts about Dream Droid and other types of botnet malware:

  • More than simply spyware or viruses, botnet malware programs seize control of users’ smartphones;
  • All phones hackers or botnet masters captures with their botnet malware come to form a network that fetches a pretty penny on hacker Internet forums or other “darknet” exchanges;
  • Whoever ends up with the botnet network has full access to all the information on the captured smartphones, which is generally used for criminal purposes — ID theft and other sorts of fraud;
  • Whoever ends up with the botnet network can also use the captured smartphone for darker purposes — attacking financial operations or engaging in cyberterrorism.

The Business Insider article insists that there isn’t much smartphone users can do to further secure their devices. Only full awareness of the nature and original of the app they’re downloading can offer any peace of mind — which, truth be told, isn’t all that much.

The perils of a wired world are such that everyone — whether he or she uses a smartphone or not — must consider purchasing the services of a trusted identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. “FBI statistics tell us that once a criminal has your personal identifiers, they use them up to 30 times,” a June 14, 2011 NaplesNews.com article reports. I think you’ll agree that that’s 30 times too many. Make that number zero by taking the appropriate action today.

7 Startling Facts About UK Smartphone Users

Recently conducted research shows that over half of all smartphone users in the United Kingdom (UK) are oblivious to the pressing need of having security software installed on their devices, a June 13, 2011 Smart Gorillas article reports.

A survey conducted by One Poll and commissioned by the Internet security firm BullGuard rendered some rather startling findings. Among the discoveries made were the following:

  • 53 percent of UK smartphone users surveyed had no idea security software for their device even existed;
  • 42 percent of users surveyed admitted that they had no awareness at all of the risks their smartphone use posed in terms of identity theft or other sorts of fraud;
  • 49 percent of users surveyed expressed no concern about accessing the Internet via their devices;
  • 21 percent of users surveyed believed security software for their smartphones to be unnecessary;
  • 31 percent of users surveyed believed that their smartphones were just as safe as their computers for accessing the Internet.

Needless to say that the UK contains a lot of sitting ducks as far as ID theft and other malicious Web activity are concerned.

As if these findings weren’t startling enough, the Smart Gorillas article goes on to report two equally troubling related findings:

  • 55 percent of UK smartphone users surveyed didn’t know that it was possible for a virus to infect their device;
  • 88 percent of users surveyed admitted that, though they don’t completely trust the Internet, they used their device to access it on a regular basis;

With so many incautious smartphone users blithely accessing the Web, it’s no wonder identity theft is one of the wired world’s fastest growing crimes. Avoid becoming a victim yourself. If you’re a smartphone user, take the time to download the proper security programs to your device.

And whether you access the web from an iPhone, Android device, BlackBerry or other handheld, or just from a regular old desktop, you really must secure the services of a trusted identity theft protection or credit monitoring specialist. Either service can give you added layers of solid protection against all the cybercrooks seeking to use the Net as a way to net your sensitive personal information.

Debix, TrustedID Offer Free Service to Data-Breach Victims

Over the past few weeks hackers have been grabbing headlines. No sooner did the furor attending the Sony PlayStation Network data breach abate than the network was hacked again. The first hack compromised some 7 million users’ sensitive data; the second, untold millions more.

As Sony continues to reel from relentless cyber-pummeling it finds that it is no longer alone in its misery. A June 9, 2011 Reuters article reports that Citigroup Inc., a major credit card provider, announced “that computer hackers breached the bank’s network and accessed the data of about 200,000 credit-card holders in North America.”

The 200,000 Citigroup customers added to the millions of Sony customers make for a lot of potential identity theft victims.

Fortunately, two identity theft protection companies have risen to the occasion. A June 7, 2011 post on The New York Times blog Bucks reports that “[t]wo companies, TrustedID and Debix, have started offering free versions of their surveillance systems.”

Debix’s free service, which is named AllClearID, offers the following kinds of monitoring:

  • Internet surveillance;
  • Notification of suspicious activity;
  • Assistance in repairing identity and credit in the event of personal information theft.

TrustedID’s free service, which is named IDSafe, offers the following kinds of monitoring:

  • Surveillance of Internet and “darknet” Web sites for up to three credit card accounts and your Social Security number;
  • Email notification of any suspicious activity involving these accounts or number.

The fact that Debix and TrustedID have elected to offer these free services truly attests to their having the public’s best interest in mind. We need not review here the immense perils you and your finances face in this wild, unpredictable digital age. They should be clear enough by now.

You should take the time to review your options. Debix and TrustedID’s respective free services make doing so that much easier. You can try their free identity theft protection for as long as you like. Should you need added protection, you can always upgrade to the premium account.

Just about any review of TrustedID or Debix will show that these two companies stand as leaders in the identity theft protection industry. If you can’t quite commit to full-fledged identity theft protection, you can always enroll in a credit monitoring service.

Yet no review of Debix or TrustedID can tell the whole story. Find out for yourself why iron-clad identity theft protection is your best insurance policy for when you venture onto the Information Superhighway.

LifeLock’s 5 Tips for Enhancing Internet Safety

internet safetyReviews. We rely on them for guidance in so many facets of our lives. Whether they’re for movies, restaurants, sports equipment — even caregivers or babysitters — reviews offer us a useful way to evaluate products and services, which we need if we’re interested in disposing our limited funds to our best advantage.

Indeed, some Web experts predict that reviews will come to play an even greater role in commerce, especially as more and more people can grab them on the fly. Savvy shoppers realize that the age of iPhone and Android apps, Blackberries, and netbooks has given them the best of both worlds by permitting sponteneity while reducing the risk that any impulse will result in a letdown. Diners can, for instance, access Yelp from their smartphones to discover whether that enticing new restaurant on the corner really serves tasty food, or that it’s “all sizzle, no steak.”

Benefits will also accrue to business owners as they accommodate their establishments to the real-time, on-demand gathering of intelligence. Reviews, along with online discounts offered by such an up-and-comer as Groupon, will allow proprietors to optimize customer volume and thus to maximize profits.

It’s clear, then, that reviews have enormous power when it comes to movies, restaurants, and other services. But what about identity theft protection? Do reviews reveal which identity theft protection services will come through in a pinch, and which ones will leave you high and dry?

One consistently well-reviewed identity theft protection service, LifeLock, has leveraged its reputation for reliable service into the position of industry leader.

Yet when it comes to LifeLock and the top-quality identity theft protection it offers, reviews tell only part of the story. LifeLock works to keep itself in the identity theft protection industry limelight, doing everything from sponsoring the WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury to offering the public free advice on how to stay safe from the threat of identity theft.

June is National Internet Safety Month, and LifeLock is naturally aware of the risks the Internet poses when it comes to fraud and ID theft. On June 1, 2011 LifeLock published a press release that offered a rundown of measures folks can take to keep their personal information secure on the Web. These we might call the 5 S’s of Internet Safety, which we review immediately below:

  • Sharing – “What information needs to be shared on social media sites?”, the LifeLock press release asks. “Facebook and Twitter don’t NEED to have your date of birth, your home address, your phone number or your email address listed. Help your family to understand that this information is OPTIONAL.”
  • Song files. The LifeLock press release also asks: “Where did all of the music on your child’s mp3 player, iPod, iTouch, or iPad come from? Take a look at your child’s music device and do the math. Did he/she pay for the 400 songs? If not, chances are the music was downloaded via a peer-to-peer file-sharing network. These networks — including but not limited to FrostWire, BearShare, Kazaa — not only allow sharing of music files but also can share the personal documents housed on your personal computer including but not limited to your electronic tax returns.”
  • Strong password – “Passwords should be simple enough to remember but complex enough to keep non-approved users out,” the LifeLock press release advises. “Strong passwords include both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.”
  • Silence – “When chatting online, understand that the person you may be interacting with may not really be who they say they are,” the LifeLock press release warns. “Do not share any information about yourself in a chat forum including your name, age, school, address or other information. If you want to chat with a friend, pick up the phone or meet in person.”
  • Secure connections – “When making purchases online, be sure that the Web site is secure and that you see an https:// in the URL,” the LifeLock press release counsels. “The “s” in the URL indicates that the personal information being entered is encrypted and can be transmitted safely from your computer to the end point.”

These five S’s of Internet Safety — sharing, song files, strong password, silence, secure connections — can greatly improve your peace of mind whenever you access the Web. And coming as they do from such an authority as LifeLock, the industry leader in ID theft protection, they ought to be heeded.

Cursory perusal of any LifeLock review reveals that the company stands behind the claims it makes about its services and protection.

For those of you who may not want to commit to full-spectrum identity theft protection, a credit monitoring service offers a reliable alternative.

Read LifeLock reviews and decide for yourself. Whether you decide to go with the identity theft protection leader or just with a credit monitoring service, you will have decided wisely. Internet safety concerns us all; LifeLock understands this. Review your options and you’ll quickly realize that danger lies in going it alone in the wild environs of the World Wide Web.

Judge Lets Bank off the Hook for Hacked Customer Account

banking identity theftThanks to the movies we’re all familiar with the various members of a bank robbing outfit. A proper heist requires stick-up men and a getaway driver.

But that was in the old days.

In the digital age, bank heists have gone virtual. The domain of phishers, hackers and other assorted miscreants, bank robbery involves trickery that, if successful, can allow robbers to crack a safe from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away.

And now it looks like cyber-crooks have a new and rather unlikely accomplice. A June 7, 2011 Wired article reports that “[a] judge in Maine has ruled that a bank that allowed hackers to steal more than $300,000 from a customer’s online account isn’t responsible for the lost money, saying the customer should have done more to protect the account credentials.”

You read that right: This judge has ruled that bank customers, not the banks themselves, are responsible for the security of their accounts.

This ruling has naturally sparked a debate about the limits of culpability for banks and other institutions whom we charge with keeping our money. After all, banks don’t perform the function of holding deposits as a pro bono community service; the loans they make against these deposits and the sundry fees they charge depositors remind us that banking is very much a business, indeed.

The unsuccessful suit, filed by “Patco Construction Company, a family-owned business in Sanford Maine,” came as a result of the company’s discovering in May 2009 “that hackers were siphoning about $100,000 per day from its online bank account.” These hackers managed to perform this feat, the Wired article continues, by sending bank employees “a malicious email … that allowed them to surreptitiously install the Zeus password-stealing trojan on an employee computer.”

The judge demonstrated in his ruling, however, that the sneaky means these hackers employed to make off with the loot failed to move him, ruling “that the law does not require the bank to implement the ‘best’ security measures available and that the bank is clear to customers when they sign up about the level of security it provides and the amount of liability it will assume if money is stolen from a customer account.”

This ruling handed down by the Maine judge should make it clear to you that the law is not always on your side. So when the justice system fails, you’d better have backup systems in place to protect yourself and your finances. Two reliable backup systems are identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. These services provide an early warning system that allows you to deal with fraud swiftly and effectively, thus removing the need to rely on the courts — which at any rate have shown themselves to be anything but reliable.

5 Tips for Defense Against Debit Card Fraud

credit card fraudThere’s no disputing the fact that debit cards have introduced a great deal of utility into our lives. Offering many of the conveniences of a credit card without many of the drawbacks (compounding interest on unpaid balances, for instance), debit cards remain an extremely popular method of payment.

We tend to think that since debit card transactions require a personal identification number (PIN) to complete a sale they are eminently secure. A June 3, 2011 Cleveland.com article tells a different story, however. Debit card fraud has grown briskly over the years and continues to trend upward. “Debit card fraud is on the rise,” the article reports, “up from 27 percent of all card fraud in 2009 to 36 percent in 2010.”

The Cleveland.com article lists 3 reasons for this surge in debit card fraud:

  • Debit cards are increasing in popularity as means of payment, while credit cards are decreasing. The article reports that “debit card use is growing at a rate of 15 percent a year and were used in 38 billion payments in 2009 [sic]. Credit card payments, by contrast, are on the decline, and totaled 22 billion payments in 2009.”
  • Because they’re linked to purchasers’ bank accounts, debit cards essentially equal cash, a fact which fraudsters find quite enticing.
  • Account monitoring is less diligently conducted for debit card accounts than it is for credit card accounts.

As debit card fraud gives credit card fraud a … er … run for its money, card users have been looking for ways to make their accounts more secure. The Cleveland.com article goes on to offer 5 tips for protecting your debit card from fraudsters:

  • Forgo Visa or Mastercard debit cards for simple bank-issued ones. Bank-issued debit cards can only be used in point-of-sale (POS) transactions, which require entering a PIN to complete and thus offer greater security than transactions in which no PIN is required.
  • Use a debit card that is attached to some other account than your primary one, i.e., the one with which you pay bills, rent, the mortgage, and so on. Having a smaller account devoted only to ordinary commerce keeps fraudsters away from your main finances.
  • Monitor your checking account daily, even several times daily.
  • Always remain aware that a certain degree or risk attends the use of debit cards.
  • Request that your bank set up account monitoring alerts for you. These can tip you off to any funny business in an expeditious way, and can thus allow you to head fraudsters off at the pass.

The Cleveland.com article offers tons of great advice for safely using your debit card. You could always do a lot more, though. The next step you should take is to secure the services of a trusted identity theft protection or credit monitoring specialist. Either service can offer you sound protection at a reasonable price — a price that is far less than any you’d have to pay for recovery from debit card fraud.

7 Actions for Protecting Deceased Loved Ones from ID Theft

People’s coming back from the dead has served as the subject of many a horror movie. Everyone’s familiar with Dr. Frankenstein’s folly: bringing a body back to life in order to cheat death. The lesson of that immortal tale is that it’s wrong to play god by raising the dead.

These days it appears that identity thieves are intent on repeating Frankenstein’s folly — not in order to cheat death, but to cheat a dead person’s surviving loved ones.

A June 6, 2011 MoneyTalksNews.com article presents 7 strategies you can adopt to protect a deceased love one’s ID from ghoulish fraudsters eagerly seeking to exhume it for their own evil purposes.

That you need to take steps to protect a deceased loved one’s identity from crooks only goes to show what a frightening and unpredictable time we live in. Rather than cringing in fear or standing paralyzed by dread, you can take a stand against the theft of a deceased loved one’s ID by taking to the fight to these ghoulish crooks before they strike. Imagine yourself as following the heroic example set by Dr. Van Helsing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Woody Harrelson’s character Tallahassee in “Zombieland.” When it comes to battling monsters, the best defense is a strong offense.

To arm you in this offense the MoneyTalkNews.com article recommends that you take the following 7 actions:

  • Secure certified copies of your deceased loved one’s death certificate. This document is essential for settling the deceased’s accounts. The MoneyTalkNews.com article also advises that you send certified copies to the 3 credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Write to financial institutions to inform them of your deceased loved one’s passage. Information required will vary according to the particular institution, but you should be ready to supply the following pieces of information:
    • The deceased’s full legal name;
    • The deceased’s Social Security number;
    • The deceased’s date of birth;
    • The deceased’s date of death;
    • Physical address(es) for the deceased’s place(s) of residence for the last 5 years;
    • A certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
    The MoneyTalkNews article also recommends that you retain for your records all correspondence with these financial institutions.
  • Omit specific details about your deceased loved one in the obituary. Because fraudsters can mine the published obit for vital clues for unlocking the deceased’s sensitive personal data, you should refrain from including in it the following pieces of information:
    • The deceased’s full date of birth;
    • The deceased’s middle and/or maiden name;
    • The deceased’s home address.
  • Shred your deceased loved one’s documents, along with any junk mail sent in his or her name, before discarding them. Under no circumstances should you ever simply pitch this paperwork in the trash. ID thieves are inveterate Dumpster divers, and trash bins are veritable repositories of means by which they may steal IDs.
  • Obtain a credit report on your deceased loved one from each of the credit reporting agencies. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are required by law to cough up one report a year free of charge. Make use of this entitlement as a way of remaining vigilant on the deceased’s behalf.
  • Freeze your deceased loved one’s credit. This prevents any new lines of credit being extended to the deceased. The MoneyTalkNews.com article indicates that the fees and policies for freezing credit vary by state. It’s safe to say that whatever fee may be charged, it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind it brings.
  • Follow up on your other actions by requesting a second credit report on you deceased loved one. Do this a few months down the road in order to double-check that your measures have been effective, and that no fraudulent monkey business has transpired in the interim.

The MoneyTalkNews.com article offers sound advice aplenty. Of course, there’s always additional action you can take, the smartest being securing the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring. Many providers offer plans in which you can add family members to your plan for a small additional monthly fee. And these family members need not even be living. Indeed, the strong protection that comes with identity theft protection and credit monitoring allows both the living and the dead to rest in peace.

4 Powerful Strategies for Fighting Fraud

A June 2, 2011 DailyJournal.com article instructs readers on how to detect fraud. Fraud has become a real headache in modern daily life — one that doesn’t look like it will be going away any time soon.

Instead of wishing it away, then, you’d be wise to take proactive measures in your own defense. That way you’ll be ready for fraud when it strikes.

Part of any robust personal defense against fraud involves changing your behavior. The DailyJournal.com article recommends that you treat with suspicion any business that makes extravagant claims concerning assured financial success or high investment returns. When it comes to such things, your rule of thumb should be that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

The article also recommends that you “[r]efrain from doing business with organizations that refuse to disclose their name, street address or telephone number.” You can gather necessary intelligence on any business simply by contacting your local Better Business Bureau.

The article goes on to single out the most common type of fraud — identity theft — which you can defend against by employing the following 4 strategies:

  • Secure your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number. This prevents fraudsters from opening lines of credit in your name with which to make fraudulent purchases.
  • Empty your wallet or purse of extra credit cards and pieces of ID, and dispose of any superfluous documents of this sort by shredding them. Under no circumstances should you ever simply throw these items in the trash. Dumpster diving remains a favorite way of stealing IDs for ID thieves. As the old saying goes: One person’s trash is another’s treasure.
  • Inspect bank account and credit card statements for suspicious charges. These suspicious charges tend to appear in a particular pattern: initially charges for small amounts (to see if the stolen account number works, or to see if you the victim are paying attention) followed by larger amounts.
  • Scrutinize your credit report for any unauthorized activity. Each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — are required to give you one free credit report a year at your request. Refrain from requesting credit reports more frequently than this, however; too-frequent credit checks can damage your credit score.
  • .

The DailyJournal.com article directs readers to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, which offers further tips on how defend against identity theft and other kinds of fraud.

Another ally in your corner should be a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. Either service offers you powerful added protection against the encroachment of fraudsters, ID thieves, and cybercrooks.

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