3 Tips for Worry-Free Smartphone Use

smartphoneSmartphones. Who doesn’t the love them? The fun and convenience they introduce to our lives make them well worth the premiums charged for them.

Anything having is worth protecting. This holds especially true for iPhones and Android devices. Not only valuable in their own right as pricey consumer electronics, they also are valuable for the things they allow you to do remotely, such as making cashless transactions and engaging in online banking.

Of course, these virtues come with a downside, because they make these devices attractive targets for identity theft and other kinds of cyber-fraud.

Experts claim that, perhaps as a consequence of their relatively recent arrival on the scene, smartphones tend to lack the same protection you find on laptop and desktop personal computers (PCs). Whereas the latter are loaded with such programs, the former can generally be found to have very little.

Yet smartphones have many of the same capabilities as PCs — and this is where the trouble begins. “Most mobile attacks … occur when software applications are being downloaded to the device,” reports a September 30, 2011 Christian Science Monitor article. A seeming innocent app download could lead to your device’s being hacked.

So how are you supposed to avoid such a calamity? The Christian Science Monitor article offers 3 tips on proper smartphone-use safety.

Specifically, it recommends that smartphone users:

  • Treat with suspicion and extreme caution any messages from unfamiliar sources, particularly if these messages contain links or downloadable files;
  • Download only well-reviewed apps from trusted sources;
  • Install and keep up-to-date commercially available antivirus software.

These 3 tips can do a lot to secure your smartphone from the influence of nefarious strangers. They cannot, however, remove the threat of hacking altogether. Indeed, when it comes to cyber-crime affecting your life, it may just be a question of when, not if. This is why you must mount a robust defense that includes the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider, because enhanced vigilance over your financial affairs can make the difference between few losses and a great many.

Are Brits Twits When It Comes to Safe Web Surfing?

The U.K. Internet service and telecommunications provider Talk Talk conducted a survey whose results show that some 45 percent of British households queried had suffered a cyber-attack of one kind or another. The survey sought to gain insight into “broadband activities by 19,828 British adults,” a September 29, 2011 SPAMFighter.com article reports.

Among the kinds of cyber-attack, attempted identity theft occurred most frequently, plaguing some 700,000 U.K. households in the first fiscal quarter of 2011 alone. And of all the e-mail sent in Britain last year, 89 percent of it was spam.

The Talk Talk survey also found that:

  • Malicious adware accounted for 34 percent of cyber-attacks;
  • Spyware and Trojan horses accounted for 14 percent of cyber-attacks;
  • Computer “worms” accounted for 5 percent of cyber-attacks, and were used mainly for phishing and attempted ID theft;
  • Hacking accounted for 3 to 4 percent of cyber-attacks;
  • Children are the household members most likely to download a virus;
  • Children and teens are the household members most likely to divulge private personal information on the Internet;
  • Some 73 percent of parents fear most that their children will somehow fall victim to suspicious characters lurking on the Web;

The results of this survey should impression on you that, no matter where you live, personal data security is of the utmost importance, especially in your dealings on the Internet. That’s why any robust defense you mount against cyber-fraud should include a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. The enhanced vigilance offered by these services will help you to make sure you don’t become just another statistic.

7 Tips for Safe Use of Paperless Receipts

Paperless receipts same like a good idea, right? They save you the trouble of having to dispose of printed receipts, save the bank a few bob on supplies, and even go some small way toward saving the environment.

The popularity of paperless receipts are really catching on among retailers, as well. More and more their encouraging customers to opt for e-receipts, digital versions of their transaction records that with a few keystrokes to effect an exchange or refund.

Customers can also elect to have their e-receipts emailed to them. Though the convenience of having this done is undeniable, in practice it proves sort of a mixed bag. Businesses take advantage of enrollment in e-receipt delivery to send customers advertising, surveys, and other forms of electronic junk mail.

As if being bombarded by electronic junk mail weren’t bad enough, e-receipt delivery also exposes you to the danger of fraud. “Posing as retailers or banks, scammers may send emails claiming there are problems and request you click links to provide personal information, which is used to steal your identity,” reports a September 24, 2011 Dayton Daily News article.

Consumers interested in receiving e-receipts are thus advised to take the following 7 actions:

  • Find out the information security measures of the business in question;
  • Discover whether the business in question sells customer information to third parties;
  • Determine whether its possible to opt out of receiving promotional material;
  • Set up a separate e-mail account devoted specifically to receiving e-receipts;
  • Ignore any unsolicited email message that requests personal information;
  • Avoid opening or downloading documents from strangers or from unfamiliar businesses;
  • Install and keep up-to-date commercially available security software.

Followed scrupulously, this advice does much to mitigate the threat of identity theft. But it cannot remove it altogether. A key to any robust anti-ID theft defense is the service of a respected identity theft protection or credit monitoring service.

A paperless world would be a greener world, indeed. But would it necessarily be more secure? Individuals who take the appropriate measures to lock down their IDs and finances aren’t waiting around to discover the hard way the answer to this question.

Medical Identity Theft: Some New Unsettling Findings

Here’s a shocking bit of news: Some 40 percent of doctors responding to a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) claim to have discovered a patient assuming someone else’s identity in order to obtain health care.

Medical identity theft is definitely exploding in terms of the frequency of incidents. “Patients seeking medical services under someone else’s name was the second most common privacy or security issue reported by healthcare providers,” reports a September 23, 2011 MedpageToday.com article.

And the bad news doesn’t end there. Here are some more unsettling findings made by the PwC survey:

  • In 2010 alone some 1.42 million Americans fell victim to medical identity theft to the tune of $28 billion in losses.
  • The weakest element of information-security defenses are medical industry professionals and staff, whose improper or negligent treatment of patient information often leads to incidences of fraud.
  • Over 50 percent of the health organizations and companies that participated in the survey claimed to have dealt with at least one information security or privacy issue in the past 24 months.
  • A mere 37 percent of health organizations that participated in the survey attested to offering to patients and employees privacy best practices on social media and personal communication devices.

The old saying, “Many a slip ‘twixt a cup and a lip,” never had greater significance than it does in these days of dubious data security. Fortunately, there exist top-flight identity theft protection and credit monitoring services that can help you to shore up your personal defenses. After all, risk in the medical industry ought to be limited to surgical procedures.

Improperly Discarded E-Waste Can Lead to ID Theft

The trouble with computers is that, whenever you buy a new one, it’s already obsolete by the time you get it home from the store.

Relentless technological innovation coupled with constant exhortations to “Shop! Shop! Shop!” means that you will likely upgrade your computer several times during the course of a decade.

But what becomes of your outdated computer? You lug it to the curb for the garbage collector. But where does it go from there?

The sad truth is, often old computers are shipped to countries too poor to make much of a fuss when boatloads of obsolete technology arrive on their shores. “E-waste is a massive growing problem, with the total amount worldwide growing by an additional 40 million tonnes every year,” reports a September 26, 2011 TechEye.net article.

Once dumped on these poorer countries, old computers become a means subsistence for the natives, who strip them for copper and other valuable components. Yet, increasingly, these scavengers are coming to discover that e-waste contains something of potentially greater value than metal – your personal information.

That’s right: Trash your old computer without first erasing the hard drive and you put yourself at risk for identity theft. And the crook defrauding you might quite literally live a world away from you.

To their credit, many users attempt to dispose of their old computers properly via take-back systems, which promise to erase data on it before responsibly consigning it to the land fill. Many of these systems, however, renege on their promise and instead dump computers on poverty-stricken countries.

This problem of e-waste should impress on you just how unmanageably complex economic relations are under global capitalism. There’s just no guarantee that your security can be ensured. This is why your defense of your finances and creditworthiness must include the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider. Nothing succeeds like heightened vigilance in today’s wild, wired world.

Seattle Slackers Hit 53 Businesses in Wi-Fi ID Theft Spree

seattle identity theft

Over drinks at a bar one character in the 2001 film “Waking Life” asks another, “Which is the most universal human characteristic – fear or laziness?”

This question is of enduring relevance, because, when you get right down to it, some people just don’t want to work for a living. This contingent will devote their waking lives to cheating, chiseling, deceiving or otherwise hatching schemes by which to defraud others – all simply to avoid the grim fate of having to punch the clock and put in their eight hours.

An incidence of exactly this sort of craven criminality recently went down in Jet City. “Three Seattle men face charges in federal court that they hacked into the computer systems of dozens of Washington businesses,” reports a September 23, 2011 Jamaica Gleaner article, “sometimes choosing their victims simply by driving around and picking up their wireless Internet signals.”

The charges leveled at the three accused men – Joshuah Allen Witt, Brad Eugene Lowe, John Earl Griffin – include aggravated identity theft, which comes as a result of the ways that the three committed their crimes. “In some cases, prosecutors say that once the men hacked into the wireless hotspots or broke into the businesses the old-fashioned way, they were able to obtain financial data, steal the identities of employees and route pay cheques to accounts they’d set up in the employees’ names,” the Jamaica Gleaner article continues. “Then, they gave themselves raises.”

All told, some 53 businesses in and around Puget Sound fell victim to Witt, Lowe, and Griffin.

The three men’s crime spree came to end when the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force intervened to aid investigators in cracking the case.

The story of these three ingenious shirkers should make you realize that you never know where or how ID thieves will strike. That’s why it’s critical that you add a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service to your defenses. After all, you have enough trouble supporting yourself without having to worry about a bunch of bums draining your resources in order to support their lazy lifestyles.

Photo Enforcement Offers Fraudsters Picture-Perfect Way to Steal IDs

photo radar

Car accidents – who needs them? At best, they’re inconveniencing and expensive. At worst, they’re deadly.

Motorists running red lights is one common way for automobile accidents to occur. As a way of remedying this problem, many cities and municipalities have installed photo enforcement technology. Sensors activated when a driver runs a red light activate a camera that snaps a picture of the offending vehicle’s license plate. This picture, along with a ticket, is then sent by mail to the motorist.

Motorists tend to fall into two categories when it comes to their attitude toward this law-enforcement technology. One contingent resists it, considering it an Orwellian encroachment on their liberty, and seeks to thwart it with various means to render license plate numbers incapable of being read in a photo. A second contingent simply pays the fine when summoned, believing it only right and proper to do so.

Scammers are now banking on members of that second contingent. They’ve hatched a ruse by which they mean to filch innocent people’s identities. A September 19, 2011 Yahoo! News article gives the details:

The scam is simple. A no-good type picks your phone number at random and, once you answer, tells you that you have an overdue red light camera fine. The only way to avoid a significant late fee, a court case, or even jail time is to pay the bill right then and there over the phone. If you don’t pay up, you’re threatened with a warrant for your arrest.

Of course, these scammers can only threaten you. They cannot arrest or imprison you. Remember: they’re crooks posing as law enforcement officials.

It’s difficult, however, to keep this fact in mind when confronted with something as frightening as possible incarceration. As in most situations, though, cooler heads prevail. If you’re able to keep your wits about you, you’ll be able to discover quite easily that the call you’ve received about an unpaid traffic fine is anything but legitimate.

In the event that you receive such a call, be sure to note whether the “officer” on the other end asks you for any of the following 4 pieces of information:

  • Your credit card number, date of expiry, and security code;
  • Your date of birth;
  • Your Social Security number;
  • Your billing address.

A request for any of these pieces of information is a definite red flag, because a legitimate law enforcement official would already have some of them by virtue of the fact that he has your license plate number.

The more important thing to remember is that the police never set about collecting fines in this way. “The police do not use the telephone to chase down or collect overdue fines or tickets. They use the postal service or, in more dire cases, a process server or law enforcement officer,” the Yahoo! News article reports.

As you can see, fraudsters cook up new scams all the time with which to draw you in so as to steal your identity. This is why it’s wise to secure the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider. Security and peace of mind come with enhanced vigilance, which either service supplies in amply measure.

Bots: Taking the ID Theft Battle to Hackers

As Citigroup and Sony discovered the hard way, hackers prove themselves crackerjacks when it comes to breaching network security.

Once they have pried open this security, however, hackers face the additional problem of figuring out what to do with the loot.

E-mail login information, credit card numbers, online banking identifiers, and Social Security numbers – these represent the most valuable parts of hackers’ haul. Police strive to catch hackers as they hawk their booty in chatrooms and on forums, but the sheer enormity of the number of such venues on the ‘Net make it nearly impossible for cops to be as effect as they’d like.

Yet police have a new weapon in their arsenal, which they may use to hound hackers: the “robot informant,” or “bot” for short. Created by the network security firm CSIdentity, the bot is “artificial-intelligence software” that is “capable of posing as a hacker” in order to engage “ne’er-do-wells in the underground forums,” reports a September 18, 2011 San Francisco Chronicle article. “Its goal is to solicit stolen data – a hacker hoping to fence 1,000 credit card numbers will offer dozens for free to prove they’re real – and send them back to flesh-and-blood investigators.”

Critical to the development of these bots was understanding hacker idiom, which is rife with slang, abbreviations, and turns of phrase that can appear bewildering to the uninitiated.

Once mastered, hacker argot becomes the foundation for algorithms intended to appear as the communiqués of actual hackers.

Hackers are already getting hip to the game, however, sussing out posts and phrasings that appear too algorithmic to have issued from a real human.

Yet the global character of the hacker underground ultimately works to the advantage of investigators. “The bots are helped by the fact that many hackers are nonnative English speakers and more forgiving of an odd-sounding statement here and there,” the Chronicle article continues. “And, when confused, the bots can always fall back on a swear word in these profanity-riddled forums.”

Bots currently only manage to deter a small amount of the fraud activity going on in hacker forums and chatrooms. But they are having an effect. Bots “can help make the problem of data loss a little more manageable, especially as its scale grows,” the Chronicle article reports. “In a single week in August, CSIdentity’s bots uncovered 419,000 new records up for sale. The data consisted mostly of e-mail account logins and passwords but also 15,000 credit card numbers and 168 Social Security numbers.”

It’s heartening to see security technology progress to the stage at which authorities can take the fight to the hackers. But you would really rather not wait for any bot remedies, then you should consider purchasing the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider. Either option offers enhanced vigilance against the misdeeds of ID thieves and other miscreants. With so much at stake personally and financially, why wait any longer? Take the appropriate action right away.

Sony Seeks to Dodge Identity Theft Lawsuit

sonyThe Sony PlayStation Network hack has commenced a second act of drama. “Sony is attempting to get gamers to give up their rights to file lawsuits against the company over the breach of its PlayStation Network (PSN) which took place earlier this year,” a September 20, 2011 Infopackets.com article reports.

The company is attempting to maneuver network users into waiving this right via a new terms and conditions agreement, which stipulates that should there occur some potentially actionable event users must first take their complaint to a neutral arbitrator instead of an attorney. This stipulation holds for any possible dispute, from violation of the terms and conditions to violation of the law.

Sony is banking on the fact that users won’t pause to consider the terms and conditions of the agreement, and will instead (as all too frequently happens) click the “Accept” button so as to get on with their gaming.

Experts speculate that the changes made to the PlayStation Network’s terms and conditions are part of an attempt on Sony’s part to head of a class action lawsuit on behalf of the victims of the massive data breach the company suffered last April. In that breach the personal information of many millions of network users fell into hackers’ hands.

The contentious environment surrounding the PlayStation Network debacle should indicate to you that companies have only most imperfectly secured the data entrusted to them. This is why you need to shore up your own personal defenses with the services of a well-reviewed identity theft protection or credit monitoring provider. Either offers constant vigilance of a wide-ranging sort — which is important, because you never know when hackers are going to catch napping some company that has your sensitive information.

Bear Grylls’ Tips for Surviving the “Digital Wild”

Most days, the problems confronting celebrity survival expert Bear Grylls are those involving the struggle for existence. In the various extreme situations in which he has found (or placed) himself, ingenuity and a strong stomach can prove the difference between life and death. Like Shakespeare’s Marc Antony, Grylls forces himself to “eat strange flesh, Which some did die to look on,” in order to stay alive — and to shock his television audience.

Recently, however, Grylls received a shock of his own. His website was hacked, and the experienced had him waxing bearish on the current state of Internet security. He has therefore turned his attention from the dangerous environs of nature and has “turned his focus to the dangers of the ‘digital wild,'” a September 19, 2011 Geeksugar.com article reports.

Grylls has developed a plan for surviving in the digital wild. This plan consists of 5 observations he has made about the condition of this unruly environment. Specifically, Grylls points out that:

  • Solid antivirus protection and a strong password (one that contains letters in both capitals and lower-case, and mixed with numbers) offer powerful protection against cyber-predators;
  • It’s much easier to prevent than to resolve identity theft, so you should devote your efforts to mounting the most effective defense possible;
  • Men should exercise added caution, because they fall victim to ID theft far more frequently than do women;
  • The safest smartphones are those which require a pin code to use and which can have their memory remotedly wiped;
  • The greatest caution should be exercised on such social media sites as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.

Grylls’ offers some truly sound wisdom on how to deal with the digital wild. Yet an even more robust response to the dangers lurking on the Web includes the services of a reputable identity theft protection or credit monitoring service. After all, the object shouldn’t be merely to survive forays into the digital wild, but to enjoy them. Either service offers the enhanced vigilance that will allow you to do exactly that.

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