All Articles Tagged "identity theft"

Have We Lost Trust In E-Commerce Sites? Nearly A Quarter Of Americans Stopped Shopping Online

June 4th, 2014 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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If there’s anything that we’ve learned from Target and eBay‘s massive security breaches, it’s that data theft is very real. Shoppers have become increasingly leery about their debit and credit card usage — especially online. In fact, 24 percent of Americans, USA Today reports, have turned away from e-commerce sites.

As cybercriminals penetrate systems of major retailers, consumers are asking, “Am I truly safe shopping online?” More than half, 56 percent to be exact, have cut down on the number of online retailers they visit, according to a survey of 790 internet users. Online shoppers stuck by well-known e-commerce sites that are less prone to hackers.

“If you put something on the Internet, you might as well be putting it on a billboard,” said Yolanda Machado, an LA blogger who purchases almost everything online. “Nothing is ever secure. You have to take active measures to ensure your own security.”

Machado, 35, adds that she never stores her credit card information on sites and she now has a habit of changing her passwords quite often. Of those surveyed, a huge 64 percent revealed that they have changed their passwords due to security breaches.

Though cyberattacks are unfavorable, they do bring favorable outcomes (if you’re looking for a silver lining). More shoppers (55 percent) are double-checking their bank accounts for signs of theft.

Even with cybercrime, Machado, thinks it would be ridiculous to stop shopping online all together.

“I mean, at Christmas, chances of being robbed are increased, but do we leave our purses and wallets at home? No. We just do things like shop in pairs, in lit areas etc. So we have to change our passwords and actually be on top of our accounts, I’m OK with that,” she said.

Lisa Tecarr, a 49-year-old from Zephyrhills, Fla., offers sound advice for reluctant online shoppers: Instead of using a credit card, use a prepaid card. Here are a few extra tips to protect yourself:

1. When shopping, look at the URL. Check to see if there’s an “https”, not “http” at the start. Also look for a lock symbol; this will tell you the site’s encryption is protected.

2. Digital devices are particularly vulnerable to cybercriminals. Use a passcode!

3. Credit cards are safer than debit cards. Many companies will reimburse you for transactions made on sketchy sites.

4. Using the same password for all your sites may be convenient, but it’s an identity thief’s dream!

Have you lost faith in online shopping?

 

Stolen Identity: How Not To Become A Victim

May 4th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Identity theft is the country’s fastest growing crime. Each year more than 15 million people are victims and over $50 billion in is lost in damages from identity theft.

It can happen anywhere, even at your favorite lunch spot. In New York,  employees of a popular soup chain was involved in an identity theft ring that allegedly stole credit card information, reports CBS New York.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has just indicted 11 defendants, charging them in connection with stealing credit and debit card info then participating in identity theft and fraud as well as grand larceny and forgery. Iesha Jackson of the Bronx worked at Hale & Hearty Soups and allegedly used a skimming device to steal credit and debit card data from customers. She got the device from her boyfriend, 39-year-old Gerald Spears of the Bronx, who along with Samuel Santana, were involved with a crew that are accused of using the data to acquire $90,000 worth of jewelry, clothing and electronics, as well as cash advances.

Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance wants tougher penalties for those such as Spears who are involved in identity theft, calling the laws on the books “outdated.”

“I am urging the legislature to make easy fixes that would give prosecutors stronger, more effective tools to combat cybercriminals,” he said. “For example, under current laws, which were largely written more than a decade ago, a defendant who uses the identity of one victim to steal $2,000 is facing the same top charge as a defendant who assumes the identity of 250 victims to steal $500,000. This does not reflect the enormous impact that identity theft is having on innocent individuals and businesses.”

WikiHow suggests steps you can take avoid becoming a victim of ID theft.

–Shred all documents containing personal information.

–Use different passwords for your accounts.

–Check your credit regularly for strange purchases.

–”Protect your computer. Many identity thieves now use complex software such as spyware and keyloggers to obtain sensitive information such as passwords and login details without the user’s knowledge,” reports WikiHow. Make sure to use a strong and regularly updated firewall, anti-virus program and anti-spyware program.

Be careful of phishing scams that send you emails asking you to verify such things as passwords, account numbers or credit/Social Security details. So never respond to unsolicited or unwanted emails. “Avoid opening emails that don’t make sense to you or that come from people or organizations that you don’t recognize… Be doubly suspicious if the email ends up in your spam folder,” reports WikiHow.

Tips For Keeping Your Identity Safe Abroad

March 5th, 2014 - By Kimberly Wilson
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Picture this: you’re traveling abroad, having the time of your life. You’re experiencing the beauty and culture of your now favorite country — maybe a visit to the Louvre, or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Life is good. Then all of a sudden you discover that you’ve run out of cash, and when you get to an ATM… your card is declined. Or, you’re searching your bag for your wallet and it’s nowhere to be found. In just an instant your dream vacation has turned into the trip from hell.

You’re not alone. Recent studies show that identity theft is a $37 billion crime that affects 1 in 25 Americans with the average victim paying out $631 in out-of-pocket costs and 33 hours of their time, reports Javelin Strategy & Research. Many of us fall victim to these types of crimes because most of tend to be more vulnerable while traveling. MadameNoire has tips for you on protecting your identity when you travel abroad.

Be Cautious While Planning

The internet is just as helpful as it is dangerous. Scam artists come a dime a dozen. People have paid for tours that don’t exist, entered their credit card information for bogus “cheap” flights and signed up for travel offers that weren’t really offers at all. Before making any purchases from tour operators or travel companies that seem “sketchy,” check their standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the attorney general’s office in the state where they do business.

Notify Credit Card Companies Before You Go

What happens to me quite often is that I travel out of the country for days/weeks on end, and forget to let my bank know that I will be visiting multiple countries. If your bank is monitoring your card the way mine is, the first thing that will happen is that your card will be deactivated. If your cell phone is off to avoid incoming calls while traveling, the bank will freeze your account because they’re unable to verify the charges. With the vast number of database hackings that have occurred over the past few years (i.e. Target) banks are more vigilant about protecting your funds. Be prepared, and don’t let this happen to you. Let your credit card company know in advance of your trip that you’ll be traveling internationally, and each country that you’ll be visiting so they’re able to put on a note on your account that your transactions are not unusual activity.

Be Wary Of Public Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi abroad is a very exciting discovery. For those that are like me, I can’t wait to connect to the internet to be able to communicate with friends, family and coworkers over e-mail and iMessage. Not to mention, my number one goal is to make everyone jealous by posting breathtaking photos on Instagram. However, public wireless provides a prime opportunity for identity theft while traveling abroad. It’s important to ensure that your mobile device (cell phone, laptop or tablet) is secure before logging on at a strange location. Many of us have bank accounts, email addresses, and personal information linked and stored to our devices. Wireless connections are more vulnerable to security problems than a secured network, which means taking precautions by updating any security features on the computer or tablet.

Make Copies of Important Documents

Anything can happen while you’re on vacation, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Before you leave, it’s imperative to make copies of any important documents including your passport, trip itinerary, reservations, health insurance, credit cards and your driver’s license. In the event that any of these documents are lost and/or stolen, you’ll have a back-up to make the situation a bit more manageable. Be sure to keep your copies in a safe place that’s secure like you’re carry-on or hotel safe.

Carry Cash & Only Use ATMs in Emergencies

My general rule of thumb is to bring enough cash while traveling abroad. At times this can be unrealistic. Using an ATM is generally the cheapest and quickest way to get cash while you’re abroad. However, thieves have a way of stealing from you, even at the ATM. For instance, a big scam abroad is “ATM skimming,” when someone illegally copies your account details from the magnetic strip on your credit or debit card when you use an ATM. Thieves can then put your card’s information on another card and use your pin number to steal money from your account.

The important thing is to detect these machines. If it looks damaged or tampered with, do not use it. High-traffic tourist areas that are not officially marked with a logo that you trust can be a hotspot for ATM skimming devices that steal your account number and pin, so stick to ATMs that are near banks or inside airports or hotels with security cameras nearby. Thieves also install tiny cameras to record people entering their pin numbers so always cover the keypad with your other hand to prevent any hidden cameras from catching you as you enter in the numbers.

Locked Up: RHOA’s Apollo Nida Arrested on Bank Fraud And Identity Theft Charges

January 25th, 2014 - By Drenna Armstrong
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"Apollo Nida"

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“Apollo Nida arrested.” Surely that wasn’t the headline Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks would hope to be reading about her husband anymore. Yet here we are and this doesn’t look good at all.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Nida surrendered to authorities after the U.S. District Attorney’s office filed a complaint charging him with bank fraud and identity theft.

He is currently out on pretrial bail.

In an affidavit filed by U.S. Secret Service Agent Alexandre Herrera, Apollo created fake companies in order to gain access to databases that gave the real names and information of people he was ripping off. Using those names, he then created fake bank accounts to funnel U.S. Treasury checks and auto loan proceeds in the accounts.

Herrera’s affidavit lists a woman named Gayla St. Julien as the original target of the investigation but she, in turn, named Apollo Nida as the mastermind behind the schemes while calling herself his “right hand bitch.”  In the report obtained by the AJC, it worked out as follows:

“Nida would allegedly steal real people’s identities and have St. Julien pretend to be them to open bank accounts. She would then deposit fraudulent auto loan checks, stolen U.S. Treasury checks, stolen retirement checks issued to Delta Airlines employees, and checks in the names of real people that were owed unclaimed property from various state and federal government agencies, according to the criminal complaint.

He also opened a fake auto dealership (such as Ferrari Autohaus) and apply for auto loans in the names of stolen identities. After the arrest, the agents had St. Julien tape record conversations with Nida in which he explained many of his schemes. At one point, they obtained a federal search warrant of Nida’s vehicle and seized evidence, including a bank debit card in the name of Ferrari Autohaus Inc., cell phones and a laptop computer.

So not only did St. Julien just tell her side of the story, but she also has Apollo admitting to how he swindles everyone?  This looks like big time trouble.

For her part, Phaedra Parks has made no comments and a rep said it isn’t their “policy to talk about the lives of our clients. Should anything change, we’ll let you know.”

Apollo Nida was previously imprisoned from 2004-2009 for racketeering charges.

We’ll be watching this one and bringing you more information as it becomes available.

Top Property Crime In US: Identity Theft Costing Americans $24.7B Annually

December 14th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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Top of your “To Do” list this next year should be to keep on top of your credit card statements. Make sure there are no suspicious charges. Identity theft is a major problem in the United States. According to a new report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more last year than all other property crimes measured by the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Identity theft cost Americans $24.7 billion in 2012 compared to $14 billion for household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and property theft.

“The BJS report measures both direct and indirect losses tied to identity theft,” reports Business Insider. The majority of the $24.7 billion were direct losses –money thieves got by misusing a victim’s personal data or account information. Indirect losses included other costs associated with identity theft, such as legal fees and bounced checks.

A separate research firm called Javelin Strategy and Research also revealed that identity thefts are on the rise.

The BJS report found:

-Thieves don’t always open new accounts with a victims info. In fact, 85 percent of theft incidents involved the fraudulent use of existing accounts.

-”People whose names were used to open new accounts were more likely to experience financial hardship, emotional distress, and even problems with their relationships, than people whose existing accounts were manipulated,” reports Business Insider.

-Households with incomes of $75,000 or more were more likely to be a victim of identity theft than lower-income households.

Although the majority of victims spent a day or less resolving the issue, sometimes identity theft can take years to clear up. Take a man named David B. Dahlstrom, for example who lost his wallet in Utah in 1985 and for the next 17 years, a German immigrant named Yorck A. Rogge used Dahlstrom’s identity.

The real Dahlstrom couldn’t get a credit card and even received an insurance claim for an accident he knew nothing about.

And identity thieves have begun targeting smartphone users and people who are careless in their use of social media, experts told Reuters in 2012.

To help you avoid being a victim, keep up-to-date on all your financial information, don’t share our passwords with anyone and change them regularly, and don’t provide too much personal information on social media networks.

If you become a victim of identity theft, contact all your financial institutions immediately.

Malware Mousetraps! Zoe Saldana Is One Of The Most Dangerous Celebs On The Web

September 19th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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Zoe Saldana is one of the top 10 most dangerous celebrities on the internet. Landing at No.5, according to a survey conducted by McAfee, her name has lured many innocent online users into phony links have caused fatal damage to computers such as malware, viruses, and spyware, according to McAfee.com.

The most-used celebrity name to bait internet users to unwillingly relinquish personal data to invasive software is Lily Collins, an actress in the recent film Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones. Collins tops the list with a nearly 15 percent chance of infecting computers under her name. According to McAfee, “Fans searching for ‘Lily Collins and free downloads,’ ‘Lily Collins and nude pictures,’ ‘Lily Collins and fakes,’ and ‘Lily Collins and free app downloads’ are at risk of running into online threats designed to steal personal information, such as email addresses and passwords.”

Cybercriminals capitalize on buzzworthy films, shows, and other pop culture trends that tend to entice large droves of internet traffic, according to researchers. Hidden in these sites are camouflaged dangerous links filled with malware that steals passwords and private data. This year, terms like “free app download” and “nude pictures,” coupled with a celebrity name “resulted in the highest instances of malware-laden sites,” a press statement by McAfee said.

“Today’s consumers often are completely unaware of security risks when searching for celebrity and entertainment news, images and videos online, sacrificing safety for immediacy,” said Paula Greve, director of web security research at McAfee. “Cybercriminals prey on consumers’ addiction to breaking news and leverage this behavior to lead them to unsafe sites that can severely infect their computers and devices and steal personal data.”

Without celebrity names attached,”free downloads” is the highest malware-prone search term. “Beware of content that prompts you to download anything before providing you the content,” the press statement suggests. “You may want to opt to watch streaming videos or download content from official websites of content providers.”

McAfee urges online users to exercise common sense such as refraining from providing personal information to third-party websites such as your credit card, email, home address, Facebook login and more. You can find yourself a victim of identity theft.

And most importantly, according to McAfee, if you catch yourself saying “this is too good to be true,” it probably is.

Here is a full list of McAfee’s 2013 Top 10 Most Dangerous Celebrities:

Position

Celebrity

Percentage

1

Lily Collins

14.5%

2

Avril Lavigne

12.7%

3

Sandra Bullock

10.8%

4

Kathy Griffin 10.6%

5

Zoe Saldana 10.5%

6

Katy Perry 10.4%

7

Britney Spears 10.1%

8

Jon Hamm

10.0%

9

Adriana Lima

9.9%

10

Emma Roberts

9.8%

 

There’s Only One Me: Protecting Yourself Against Identity Theft

July 11th, 2013 - By Tanvier Peart
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No one likes to be a victim, especially when it comes to having your personal information hacked. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes with a reported 15 million Americans claiming their information has been stolen per year. Just the thought alone of knowing some or all of your business could be stolen at any given time is enough to make us crazy.

While we might not be able to stop those who intend to do us harm, there are some steps we can take to help insure our business is protected.

Don’t Be a Victim of a Cyber Attack: International Hacker Puts Taxpayers At Risk

November 12th, 2012 - By Ann Brown
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Can you imagine 3.6 million social security numbers stolen? It happened. And such massive personal data theft can only happen via a cyber attack. Late last month, an international hacker illegally obtained tax information from a South Carolina computer system, reports The New York Times. It was, in fact, the largest cyber attack on a state government.

Along with the social security numbers, the hacker stole  387,000 credit and debit card numbers. A majority of the stolen credit cards were encrypted;  the Social Security numbers were not. Still, the state said it would pay up to $12 million to provide a free year of credit monitoring and identity theft prevention to anyone affected.

The attack isn’t only being felt in that state, but nationwide as it has put other states on high alert.

This is not the first time this has happened. While not on the scale of the South Carolina attack, “(s)ince 2005, at least 11 state tax agencies have faced security breaches, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer rights group. But most were caused by internal accidents, not attacks, and none were on this scale,” reports the newspaper.

Such cyber attacks most often lead to identity thefts. The Social Security numbers can be used by hackers for financial gain. “The most common line of attack for identity thieves is to use your personal information to apply for credit cards and of course, you won’t know that until it’s too late,” reports Carolina Live. Your name and social security number can also be used to open brokerage accounts and loan requests. Most often vicitims don´t know until it is too late.

Once you are a victim of identity theft, it can take years to clean up your credit and financial records.

Horrible. Here are some tools direct from the Federal Trade Commission to help prevent identity theft. And here’s our previous coverage of how to prevent credit card fraud.

Be Cyber Secure: Six Tips To Protect Your Financial Transactions

October 17th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Image: Press Association via AP Images

In honor of National Cyber Security Month, Black Enterprise has given us six tips to better secure your financial transactions and protect your personal information.

We’re carrying hi-tech gadgets in our pockets every day. While many of the apps and websites that our tablets, smartphones and other devices are access are secure, it doesn’t hurt to add an extra layer of protection.

Use firewalls and anti-virus software. Firewalls and anti-virus protection are crucial to shielding your computer from threats. There are even some great products available that are free of charge. One free anti-virus software of note is ZoneAlarm,” the article suggests.

As we surf around the Internet, we open ourselves up to those who are making it their business to crack our codes. For the other five Cyber Security Month tips to safeguard your data, visit BlackEnterprise.com.

Don’t Fall For That! Five Scams and Ways to Avoid Them

July 24th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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Photo: Hemera

If some people can’t get their hands on your money or personal information by legitimate methods, they’re perfectly willing to use shady techniques to line their pockets. A quick Google search will turn up tons of articles about online scams, identity theft, and other cons that dishonest people are using to get your hard-earned cash.

We asked the folks at Scam Detector about five common scams they’re seeing out there and the best ways to avoid them. Scam Detector is a Web-based app that detects over 550 different acts of fraud, from financial ploys to social media trickery. This slideshow features the company’s responses and advice. Some of these schemes may seem pretty simple, but they’re successful nonetheless.