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Don’t fall for these top holiday scams

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Even though the two biggest shopping days of the year are now over, it is still just as important to stay vigilant throughout the entire holiday season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the only shopping days that fraudsters target, as the full holiday season lasts until New Years. In fact, fraud attempts last year increased by 22% in the period from Thanksgiving Day to December 31, while the number of overall transactions increased by 19%.

So, for those who haven’t checked everyone off their list (we’re with you!), here are a few things to look out for. 

7 holiday scams you may not have heard of:

1. Gift Card Scam
In the first nine months of 2018, consumers lost $53 million in gift-card scams. This scam has increased sharply from $20 million in 2015.

Make sure that the gift cards you purchase have not been tampered with. Check to see what other gift cards look like, inspecting the seams, PINs and anything else that could be amiss. Also, online gift cards can be scams as well. If you receive an unsolicited email or link claiming to be a gift card, do not automatically open it. Investigate further and contact the gift card purchaser to verify they did indeed send it. Furthermore, if you receive a call from a service provider saying that you can pay them in the form of a gift-card hang up. 

2. Counterfeit Goods Scam 
A surprisingly low price and a sketchy seller are big red flags.  When a price seems “too good to be true” on a name brand product, it’s likely to be a fake. Make sure to purchase products directly from the brand owner and their trusted authorized retailers. If a manufacturer can’t profit with such a low price, that’s a good clue you aren’t getting the real deal.

3. E-Holiday Card Scam
Few people think before opening up an e-holiday card. If you open a “fake” one, it can install malware on your device or steal your personal information. Spelling mistakes are a common sign of a fake e-card as well as if the sender is not someone you know. You should always avoid clicking on anything from a source that you don’t know. Be on the look out for malware on your device by keeping your security software up to date. 

4. Corrupt Coupon Scam
The internet loves to overwhelm you with hot deals and sales. Many of those are actually fake deals created by hackers trying to entice you with a sense of urgency such as “Offer Ends Soon!”. Beware that the link to the sought after coupon may actually be dangerous malware that can infect your device and steal your identity. If the coupon asks for your personal information or forces you to buy something in order to receive a deal later it may be a scam. 

5. Charity Scam
Many people feel that the holidays are a great time to give back. Don’t be easily influenced by social media posts claiming to give money to charity. The best bet for charitable donations is to give directly to a reputable and known organization.

6. Shipping/Billing Fraud
Billing fraud occurs when the victim’s address is connected to the payment account used to purchase the stolen goods. This form of fraud increased by 34% in the last year. 

Shipping fraud occurs when a criminal uses their address for the delivery of stolen goods purchased online. Rates of shipping fraud increased 37% in 2017. From a regional perspective, the Western U.S. saw a nearly 60% increase in attack rates for shipping fraud, according to Experian. 

 

7. Travel Scams
Do not click on suspicious ads claiming to have travel sales for you. Stick to reputable travel websites such as Kayak.com, Expedia, or Google Flights that offer options for comparing competitive pricing. Additionally, it is always a good idea to purchase your tickets directly through the airline’s website when you are ready to book your trip.

What to do if you’re a victim of Identity Theft

Contact iLOCK360.  As an iLOCK360 paid subscriber, our certified U.S.-based Identity Theft Restoration Specialists will work on your behalf to restore your good name. A Specialist assigned to your individual case will guide you through each step of the restoration process and ensure that your case is handled with care. With your consent, the Restoration Specialist can help you with closing accounts, re-ordering cards, placing a fraud alert with each of the three credit bureaus, and removing fraudulent activity from your credit report. Restoration Specialists offer robust case knowledge in both credit and non-credit fraud situations. Our dependable identity restoration services will reduce the time and effort you’ll spend restoring your good name. 

Call 855-287-8888 to speak with an Identity Theft Restoration Specialist. 

How Else Can iLOCK360 Help?

Did you know that your iLOCK360 membership can help alert you if your personal information may have been bought or sold by hackers online?

iLOCK360’s proprietary CyberAlert can help you monitor your identity 24/7/365 for possible compromise on the Dark Web (i.e. the anonymous online marketplace where illicit activities occur). If your monitored information is found bought or sold online you will be automatically alerted so that action may be taken to address the issue.

CyberAlert’s available monitored features include: Bank Accounts, Credit/Debit Cards, Email Addresses, Phone Numbers, Medical ID Numbers, Social Security Number, Driver’s License and Passport.

Want to know if your information may have been compromised by a cybercriminal on the Dark Web? Be sure to log into your iLOCK360 account to setup this feature today.

Don’t bargain away your identity during Black Friday

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After stuffing ourselves with turkey and cranberry sauce, many dream of losing sleep, battling crowds and racing through the aisles of Target to grab the best deals of the season. That’s right, Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) has become a much anticipated holiday tradition. In fact, the leisurely days of food coma and football are declining as now more than 174 million Americans take part in this annual retail shopping frenzy. And if you’re like the vast majority (93%) of shoppers connecting to and interacting with technology during this year’s shopping season, you can be especially vulnerable to online fraud and identity theft. 

So, before you start checking everyone off your list, make sure to read our 9 tips for protecting your identity when shopping online this holiday season. 

9 Tips to help protect your identity when shopping online this holiday season:

1. Batten down the hatches
Verify that the antivirus software on your device is working and has been updated.

2. S is for Secure 
You can check if a website will securely transmit your personal information by verifying that the url has an “https” at the beginning. The “s” stands for “secure.” Also verify that there is a “locked” padlock before the URL. It is important to note, that while a site address starting with https encrypts your data during transmission, it does not guarantee how the site owner will use and/or manage your data. 

3. Be leery of links.
Fake emails that appear to be from a trusted retailer are very common during the holidays. Thieves will pose as real retailers to get you to click on malicious content that may steal your personal information or install harmful malware on your device. Verify that the links you’re clicking are legitimate. For more information, check out our recent blog post on pharming.

4. Take cover with credit.
If a thief steals your debit card you are more vulnerable to financial loss because they have direct access to your checking account, whereas, a credit card is not directly linked to a bank account. Additionally, credit cards provide protections that debit cards do not. Under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card cannot exceed $50. But if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report it.

5. Watch for counterfeit coupons.
Thieves try to entice holiday buyers by creating and sending fake coupons. Verify that the coupons you are using are legitimate and have the retailer’s exact logo. Beware that social media links for alleged “coupons” could connect you to a phishing site or install malware on your device.

6. Protect your passwords.
It’s crucial that you never reuse a password across accounts. It’s also important that you create passwords that can not be easily guessed (stay away from creating passwords that use easily guessed personal details such as birthdays, graduation years, pet names, etc.). So how does one remember so many different passwords? Consider using a digital Password Manager (such as LastPass or 1Password) to help you generate long, random and unique passwords as well as assist you with storing them in a secure spot. 

7. Research 3rd party payment systems.
Unlike regular online transactions, payments made through Apple Pay or Google Pay don’t use your real credit card number, so vendors never get access to it. These services make use of a technology called payment tokenization, which converts your credit card number into a cryptogram that’s worthless to hackers. Ordinarily, hackers just need your credit card number, CVV, and expiration date to commit fraud, and those are a lot easier to come by.

8. Statements Matter.
Be aware of the purchases you make and keep track of them on your credit statements. During the rush of the holiday season, it can be easy to let one or two transactions slip by that you never made. If you see a transaction that you do not recognize, be sure to call your credit card company or bank right away.

9. Veil your identity with a VPN
Using a VPN when browsing online can help you mask your internet activity and secure your personal information. All of your information and activity is known to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) because of your IP address. By changing your IP address, you can mask your internet activity. A VPN lets you do this. 

What to do if you’re a victim of Identity Theft

Contact iLOCK360.  As an iLOCK360 paid subscriber, our certified U.S.-based Identity Theft Restoration Specialists will work on your behalf to restore your good name. A Specialist assigned to your individual case will guide you through each step of the restoration process and ensure that your case is handled with care. With your consent, the Restoration Specialist can help you with closing accounts, re-ordering cards, placing a fraud alert with each of the three credit bureaus, and removing fraudulent activity from your credit report. Restoration Specialists offer robust case knowledge in both credit and non-credit fraud situations. Our dependable identity restoration services will reduce the time and effort you’ll spend restoring your good name. 

Call 855-287-8888 to speak with an Identity Theft Restoration Specialist. 

How Else Can iLOCK360 Help?

Did you know that your iLOCK360 membership can help alert you if your personal information may have been bought or sold by hackers online?

iLOCK360’s proprietary CyberAlert can help you monitor your identity 24/7/365 for possible compromise on the Dark Web (i.e. the anonymous online marketplace where illicit activities occur). If your monitored information is found bought or sold online you will be automatically alerted so that action may be taken to address the issue.

CyberAlert’s available monitored features include: Bank Accounts, Credit/Debit Cards, Email Addresses, Phone Numbers, Medical ID Numbers, Social Security Number, Driver’s License and Passport.

Want to know if your information may have been compromised by a cybercriminal on the Dark Web? Be sure to log into your iLOCK360 account to setup this feature today.

Diving Into the Dark Web

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The Dark Web is often alluded to when speaking about online illegal activities, but what is it really? iLOCK360 uses proprietary technology to scour the Dark Web  24/7/365 to identify if your personal information has been bought or sold on 1000’s of malicious websites. So, how does one even access the Dark Web, and how much are criminals paying for stolen identities? The infographic below breaks down the layers of the Internet, what it is used for, and also provides some tips for how you can minimize the risk of your personal information ending up for sale on the Dark Web.

5 Tips To Protect Your Social Security Number

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Your Social Security Number (SSN) is an extremely valuable piece of personal information. It is unique to you, and with it identity thieves can commit multiple crimes in your name, including tax and credit card fraud. Follow the 5 tips below to help you protect your SSN and your identity as a whole.

1. NEVER Carry Your Social Security Card

Carrying your social security card with you is the easiest way to get your SSN stolen or compromised. Most people already carry some form of state issued ID in their wallets or purses, so if you were to lose your entire wallet (including your SSN card), someone would have all the necessary information to successfully steal your identity.

2. Create a mySocialSecurity Account

A mySocialSecurity account allows you to see all things associated with your Social Security number. You can view and manage benefits you may be eligible for; order a new card in the event that you lose yours; and, you can also see all earnings that have been associated with your SSN to verify that the information is accurate.

3. Never Send Your Social Security Number Electronically

Most reputable institutions will not ask you to send your full Social Security number electronically (i.e. email, text message, etc.), but if they do, it is imperative that you refuse. Not only is this an electronic documentation of your information, but it also leaves your SSN vulnerable.  Hackers may gain access to your information through the same WiFi network you are using, or if you or the recipient’s email gets hacked at a later date.

4. Guard Your Final Four

The last 4 digits of your SSN are completely random and specific to you, therefore they’re most important. The first 5 digits are assigned based on where and when you were born. It is easy for identity thieves to learn the first 5 digits of your SSN based on your birthdate and birth city, so if a thief also gains access to your last 4 digits they could easily learn the entire 9-digit string.

5.  Avoid Providing Your SSN When Asked

There are only a few agencies that require your SSN in order to obtain services from (i.e. employers, financial institutions, medical insurance providers, etc.). If someone outside of these essential services asks for your SSN, you should not provide it to them.

Could you possibly be oversharing on social media?

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Social media has become an easy, convenient way to share and receive information, instantly. It can be extremely tempting to take to sites, such as Twitter or Facebook, with life updates, achievements or pictures. But how much is really too much?  You may be surprised to learn which small and seemingly insignificant details a cybercriminal may be able to gather online and use against you.

Follow these 6 tips when using social media to ensure that something as simple as a Facebook post doesn’t lead to the theft of your identity.

1. Avoid using your social media profile to create new online accounts

Third party websites will often prompt you to link your social media accounts to “simplify” the sign up process. Although this may be convenient by allowing you to avoid making an additional account; it also means that if a hacker compromises your primary account, they may also have access to all of your accounts.

It is best practice to use a different user name and password combination for each of your online accounts, so that if one of them is hacked, the others may still have a chance of being secure.

2. Only Add People That You Have Actually Met Offline

Social media is a fun place to connect with those that we care about. It is also frequently used as a venue to meet new people. A new connection may not only be able to see many additional profile details (that were formerly private), they may also be able to phish for personal information about you.

While it may seem obvious to avoid adding anyone that you don’t know outside of social media, you must also exercise caution when someone you’re already connected with sends you a duplicate request. Many times this request could be coming from a fraudulent account that the respective friend knows nothing about. In this case, it is best to reach out to your friend directly to confirm that the request did actually come from them.

3. Even Small Personal Details Are Significant

Many times, sharing information online may seem harmless, but in reality you may be revealing small bits of information about yourself that a hacker is looking for. Each piece of information you offer up about yourself can be used like a puzzle piece by a cybercriminal. They may be able to gather enough small details that they can link them together and formulate a fairly accurate portrayal of your identity. One such example: If you wish your mother happy birthday on her Facebook page, you may also be disclosing her maiden name – this detail may also be used by a hacker to answer one of the most common security questions.

Other items to avoid sharing online include:

  • Your full name
  • Date of birth
  • Birth location
  • Anniversary date
  • Hometown
  • Pet names
  • School mascot
  • Favorite movie
  • Make/model of car

4. Utilize Custom Security Settings 

We’ve already established why it’s important to avoid accepting connection requests from people you do not know, but it is also important to utilize the privacy and security settings available on most social networking sites. Most sites give users full control over what information they make available to the public. For example, Twitter allows you to protect your tweets so that only people you follow can see what you post (see example image above).

5. Ensure Your Location is Turned Off

It can be tempting to show off your vacation to your family and friends online, but it is vital that you remember to keep your location turned off. Revealing your location can not only give criminals the means to cause you physical harm, but could also allow cybercriminals to gather information on frequent places you visit. Additionally, enabling your location when you’re at home can reveal your billing address, which may be utilized to commit credit card fraud.

6. Pause Before Posting

Lastly, take a moment and think before you post something on the Internet. Remember that what you post online can never truly go away. Consider if the information you are posting could leave you, your family, or your friends vulnerable to physical harm or identity theft.

5 Tips To Avoid Tax Fraud

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You may already be aware that identity theft is the fastest growing crime – occurring once every 3 seconds. However, what you may not know is that over 26% of identity thieves are aiming to use your personal information to commit tax fraud. Please follow the tips below to help ensure that you avoid being scammed and receive your rightfully earned tax refund.

1. File Early

Scammers that are looking to commit tax fraud are hoping that you delay filing your taxes, so that they can file a fraudulent tax return in your name and collect your refund before you are even aware that it is happening. With that being said, not only will filing your taxes early guarantee you a faster tax return, but it will decrease the likelihood of someone committing tax fraud with your name.

2. Protect Your Social Security Number

Most tax-return identity theft cases involve a stolen Social Security Number (SSN). With your social security number, identity thieves can file fraudulent tax returns and collect your refund. In order to avoid this happening, it is best not to carry your Social Security Card with you, but rather to store it somewhere securely. You also should ensure that you never send your SSN through email, and only provide it to people when ABSOLUTELY necessary.

3. Beware of Phishing

Phishing is when online scammers impersonate reputable businesses in order to receive personal identifying information such as your SSN, DL #, address, etc. A popular scam has been hackers sending emails pretending to be IRS in order to receive your personal identifying information. Beware of these emails and remember that the IRS, your bank, or any other reputable businesses will never ask for financial or personal information through email.

4. Shred Your Bank and Tax Documents

Tax documents, bank statements, W-2’s, and any other information that goes into filing your taxes is very sensitive information, and must be protected at all costs. People who are looking to commit identity theft and tax fraud are not above digging through your trash to acquire these sensitive documents, so in order to be safe it is best to shred all of these documents when you are done with them.

5. Protect Your Mailbox

Bank statements, W-2s and pay stubs are all pieces of mail that can be used against you to commit identity theft. Some scammers will take advantage of you by simply sifting through your mailbox to see what they can get their hands on. To ensure this doesn’t happen, it is best to consider using a PO box to ensure that no one can access your mail other than you. If this isn’t an option for you, you should change your account preferences to sensitive bank and tax info to receive them electronically.

Holiday Giving Do’s and Don’ts

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For many people, the holiday season represents a time to give back to the less fortunate by making a charitable donation. While this is beautiful and rewarding, it unfortunately may also open the door for scammers to prey on your kindness. In the past, well-meaning donors have been taken advantage of by fake charities; promises of fake rewards for donations; and, by having their personal information sold. Check out the infographic below to help ensure that when you’re giving to others, you’re also taking care to protect the value of your identity.

7 Tips To Protect Yourself & Your Identity During The Holiday Shopping Season

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The holiday season is the most joyful time of year – spent enjoying family, friends, and food. The last thing you should have to worry about is the threat of someone stealing your credit card information, or even worse, your entire identity. With today’s increased dependence on technology, and significant data breaches announced almost daily; cyber crimes like identity theft and credit card fraud have skyrocketed. Follow these 7 tips to make you and your identity less vulnerable this holiday shopping season.

1. ONLY Rely On Secure Wifi
It is a good rule of thumb to avoid unsecured networks at ALL TIMES, but it is imperative to avoid them when you enter personally identifiable information (PII) such as credit card numbers, shipping and billing addresses, etc. When you enter this valuable information through an unsecured network, you are more vulnerable to hackers penetrating the network and stealing your information. You can identify a secure network by the lock in the top left corner of your URL bar and the web address will begin with “https://” such as the image below.

2. Watch Out For Fakers
Hackers can create a webpage that is a visual replicate of the website they are imitating. However, they cannot completely replicate the domain name. Often times these fake websites will include domains with a hyphen in them or the words “shop” or “secure”. Examples of fake websites to be aware of are “amazonsecure-shop, targethome.today, and walmart-outlet.ga”. The image below points out different ways to spot a fake email from a company.

3. Recognize The Risk of Rushing
You could be well versed in the various online risk factors, but when you are in a rush you are more likely to make simple mistakes such as clicking on a malicious email link you normally would not, or providing your information without thinking through how it will be used. The extra 30 seconds it takes to slow down and think before you give access to your personal information could cost your months of trying to restore your identity.

4. Don’t Take The Bait
A common method of phishing is sending fake order confirmation or delivery failure emails to consumers. Don’t fall victim to these fake email alerts. With the increase in online shopping orders it is sometimes hard to keep track of what packages you ordered and when you received them. Hackers send these phishing emails to entice you to either share information about you or spread malware that will infect your computer when you click the link. Examples of email scams to look out for include order confirmation emails from Walmart and delivery failure emails from FedEx.

5. Be Mindful in Marketplaces
When using online marketplaces you must be careful to protect yourself not only financially, but also physically. There have been some Amazon.com resellers that have scammed people by delivering their packages to other addresses in their zip code, but not to the actual purchaser. For example, if you order a phone from an Amazon reseller to be delivered to your address in Austin, Texas, the reseller will send the phone to someone else in Austin, Texas and communicate to Amazon that it was delivered to you, preventing you from receiving a refund even though you never received the package. The best way to avoid this is to order directly from site vendors or meet up with the reseller rather than having them ship the product to you. If you do choose to personally meet a reseller, it is important to remember physical safety. Although, cyber crime is constantly growing, petty theft and violence is also still prevalent. If you have to meet with a reseller in person, try to find a public spot, with some type of surveillance. Some even suggest meeting at a police station, so that if something goes wrong, authorities can arrive immediately.

6. Credit Reigns Supreme
Think twice before choosing debit over credit in the checkout line. It is much easier to dispute things that were fraudulently purchased on a credit card versus a debit card. If your debit card falls into the wrong hands, the thief could easily drain your bank account and it could take months to get your funds back, if at all. Also, many credit card companies may offer rebates or “points”  and extended warranties to incentivize your holiday gift purchases.

7. Is It Too Good To Be True?
As disappointing as it may be, 99% of the time an offer you receive claiming to provide a free gift card is not real. Before you fall victim to a phishing or malware scam be sure to ask yourself, “Why would Amazon or Footlocker be sending me a free gift card?” Typically, if you can’t think of a legitimate reason, then you’re dealing with some type of scam. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Pro Tip: When you are suspicious about an email you receive or the company you received it from, call their customer service line. Everything is digitized in this day and age so if their agents don’t have a record of a communication with you, then 9 times out of 10 the communication may be fraudulent.

Beware of Phishing Attacks

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Phishing is becoming one of the most common hacking methods in today’s cyber world. In fact, 91% of cyber attacks start with a phishing email. Whether through emails, online stores, banks, or social media sites; it is very likely that you will experience a phishing attempt at one time or another if you have any online presence. The infographic below breaks down how each phishing attempt is categorized as well as what you can do so that your information does not become compromised due to phishing.