Category Archives: Consumer Protection

Indiana stops $88M in identity theft in 2014

By: frankieleon

Indiana is successfully putting a stop to identity theft due to new security measures. The Indiana Department of Revenue reported that the agency stopped over $88M in identity theft in 2014. Residents of Indiana should expect to see similar security measures in place for the 2015 tax season.

One of the security measures that the Department of Revenue will uses is an identity confirmation quiz. The quiz is two-minutes long and asks taxpayers to verify their identity.

According to WTHR, “The Department of Revenue says the $88 million figure came from stolen or manufactured identity theft tax refunds stopped (out of $800 million in total requested refunds); 74,000 fraudulent returns identified (out of 2.2 million total returns requesting refunds); 3.5 percent of all tax returns were fraudulent.”

The security features in place helped taxpayers realize that their identities had been stolen. Indiana residents, and residents of every state in the U.S., are reminded to take care when giving out personal information and to make sure that private information is secure.

Indiana offers residents a guide on protecting themselves from becoming victims of identity theft through the department’s Stop ID Theft website.

WebSafety Keeps Kids Safe on the Internet

By: Enokson
By: Enokson

WebSafety is a new cell phone app that allows parents to keep their children safe on the internet. It gives parents real-time information about the who, what and where of what their kids are doing online. The app helps parents monitor their children’s behavior and their whereabouts through real-time alerts.

web safety app

In an Interview between Michele Borba product developer of WebSafety, she mentions that WebSafety is very important for parents because it keeps them alerted to when their children are posting personal information and inappropriate things on the internet. She says that one of the most common things that kids do to make themselves vulnerable in the cyber world is the posting of private information.

The WebSafety app empowers parents to keep track of their childrens’ smartphone and tablet usage. It can trigger alerts for vulgar language, flag websites and monitor apps that kids and teens download onto their phones and tablets. WebSafety also offers geo-tracking. Parents can make sure kids are where they say they are going to be. It also allows parents to create a 25 mile geofence to alert them when the child has left the area.

WebSafety is running a limited time promotion of 50% off to the first 25,000 new subscribers to 6-month and 12-month subscriptions. It is available on most Android Smartphones and Tablets. iOS Support Coming Soon!

Pricing Packages start at $3.99 

  • Protects one child device.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $3.99/month.
  • Purchase a year’s subscription for $39.99, and two months free.

$11.99 / month

  • Protects four children’s devices.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $2.99/month.

$14.99 / month

  • Protects six children’s devices.
  • Includes parent Dashboard.
  • Access to the WebSafety forum.
  • Customer support.
  • Additional devices cost $2.49/month.
  • Purchase a year’s subscription for $149.99 and save over 16%.

Borba believes that the first step in protecting children on the internet is for parents to have the ability to be informed. She says that parents need to keep an open line of communication with their children and she recommends that kids be told when they are being monitored. Kids who know they are being watched will think more about what put out in the cyber world and more about who they are engaging with online.

NXT-ID claims Wocket™ is useless to thieves

By: bozontee’s golden zebra

Once upon a time, Dr. Seuss wrote a book called There’s a Wocket in my Pocket where a little boy talked to strange creatures living in his house. Nobody really knew what a Wocket was though. NXT-ID, Inc., a biometric authentication company, wants everyone to carry around a Wocket™ in their pocket. The company NXT-ID claims Wocket™ is useless to thieves has plans to launch the Wocket™ in New York City on May 28.

Wocket™ is considered the newest smart wallet heading to the e-commerce market. At the launch consumers and media will get the first look and feel of the smart wallet that claims to zeroize each sale immediately making the Wocket™ useless to thieves.

The patent-pending Wocket™ uses biometric solutions to secure consumers’ mobile platforms. The smart wallet is designed to replace all the cards in your wallet without the need for a smart phone. It will be 3.7”W x 2.75”L x .39”H. The smart wallet only becomes accessible through a unique combination of voice, PIN or pattern. It was designed to keep Wocket™ transactions separate from regular transactions in order to keep Wocket™ transactions secure by zeroizing each card after use.

Wocket™ isn’t the first smart wallet on the market. It is an evolution of the smart wallet’s already on the market. Google offered a smart, virtual wallet to help consumers’ keep their information secure. Google Wallet comes in the form of an app or a card that stores credit card and loyalty card information all in one place.

Security is the biggest concern for smart wallets since they were designed with consumer security in mind. The Google Wallet offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and Google Wallet Purchase Protection. If your phone or card is lost or stolen it can be disabled through a Google Wallet account.  The Wocket™ doesn’t offer a protection program instead it offers a guarantee.

According to the FAQ, the creators say, “while we can’t ensure that your card never gets stolen, we can guarantee that it’s worthless to anyone that gets a hold of it. Each time after the dynamic card is used, it is zeroized. Thus, it is merely blank piece of plastic to any ambitious thief.”

There are very few other smart wallets on the market. The Wocket™’s biggest competitor appears to be Google Wallet, but there are a few other smart wallets attempting to emerge on the scene including the PING wallet and the SmartWallit.

Medical Records are New Target for Cybercriminals

 medical records

Cybercriminals don’t have any scruples when it comes to gathering personal data. They have been known to steal credit card information as well as personal identification such as a social security number.  Now we can add medical identity theft to the list of things that cybercriminals are eager to steal from unsuspecting victims.

Redspin, a cybersecurity company, reports that approximately 30 million Americans have had their personal health information breached or disclosed since 2009. Redspin’s report also claims that 4 million records were breached in the single largest incident.

Health data is becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber thieves because of the migration of information to mobile devices. Medical professionals use laptops, tablets and other mobile devices to access personal medical data which puts the data at risk if it isn’t encrypted properly or secured properly.

“This should be a clarion call to the healthcare industry,” reports Respin. “The trajectory is predictable yet preventable. With PHI data on more portable devices used by more “under-educated” employees, it is a virtual certainty that there will be more breaches. Mitigating that risk must become a higher priority throughout the entire industry.”

Cybercriminals who hack medical information are looking to steal everything from prescription information to Social Security numbers and credit card information. Medical billing records contain almost all of this information in one place.

Medical data is sought after for numerous reasons by thieves. Last year, CNBC ran a report about medical identity theft targeting victims in order to receive medical services, devices or prescription drugs.  It could take years before the theft of information is noticed.

Robert Gregg, chief executive of ID Experts, a cyber security firm, compared the value of different types of identity thefts for CNBC. He said, “A financial identity can be worth $5 to $10 if you have all the info. A medical identity can be five to 10 times that amount just because how easy it is to monetize that information once the bad guys get it.”

Signs that your medical information may have been breached:

-Unexpected medical bills for services not performed.

-Notice of health plan benefits saying benefit limit has been reached.

-Medical records show a condition you don’t have.

Review your medical history, report anything out of the ordinary, and never share medical information or personal identification information.

Bitcoins Vanish and Mt. Gox Goes Dark

Bitcoin is a buzz word in the news lately.  Almost half a billion US dollars worth of bitcoins vanished into thin air last week when the bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox went dark.  It helps to understand what bitcoins are to understand why customers are upset about the disappearance of virtual funds.

What are bitcoins?

Bitcoins are virtual currency that approximate cash on the internet. The coins are purely digital and not linked to any government entity. The coins are not backed by any bank or government.  The virtual coins are mathematical algorithms that are exchanged directly between two parties online with no middle man. That means no bank, no government, and no other authority over the printing, distributing or mining of the coins.

What is a bitcoin worth?

According to a Simple Bitcoin Converter, 1 bitcoin is worth $657.60 USD at the time of this post. The exchange rate does fluctuate.

What is the idea behind bitcoins?

The idea behind bitcoins was to create a currency that is completely segregated from a country’s government. For example the United States has no control over the creating, distributing or backing of bitcoins as it does with American currency. Bitcoin was aiming to become a universal currency that changed the current economic system.

What happened?

A rumor appeared that several hundred thousand bitcoins disappeared from one of the dominant exchanges for bitcoin trading.  Slowly the rumor unraveled to become fact. Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles bowed in apology at a news conference in Toyko after revealing that it had lost almost 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins. On top of the large amount lost, which equates to almost half a billion dollars in US currency, Mt. Gox also lost 100,000 of its own bitcoins.

Karpeles said that technical issues and “some weakness in the system” opened the way for the fraudulent withdrawals.  He did not delve into detail about what the “weakness” or address what the technical issues were.

What is being done for victims of the fraud?

Customers who lost bitcoins have assumed a risk by using a currency not backed by any central bank.  There are no regulations in place. Mt. Gox has shut its operation down and is filing for bankruptcy protection. Some victims are attempting to bring about a class action suit against the once popular exchange.

According to Wall Street Journal, Gregory Green filed a claim with an Illinois District Court seeking damages and restitution.  The claim alleges that Mt. Gox engaged in “unlawful, deceptive, and unfair conduct that is immoral, unscrupulous, and causes substantial injury to consumers.”

Recourse might be very difficult for the victims of the vanishing bitcoins because the exchange was never regulated and never backed by any government or bank. In the meantime, bitcoin enthusiasts believe that the missing coins can be found and are hunting them down themselves.

 

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud: Who, What and Why

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a category that falls under identity theft. It involves the theft of the “tax” identity of the victim. As the tax filing season descends upon us we need to be aware of the very real threats of having an identity stolen.

Victims of stolen identity refund fraud have had their lives ruined. The criminal steals the “tax” identity of an individual for the purpose of filing a tax return. The criminal will obtain information about the victim and use it to obtain his or her social security number. The thief will then submit a false tax return in the name of the victim claiming a tax return. Forbes report claims that “unfortunately, in many instances the refunds are issued.”

The victims are left to discover the fraud when they go to file their tax returns. The IRS refuses to send out a refund because a return was already filed under the name of the individual.  The burden of proof rests on the individual to prove that their identity was actually stolen and that they did not file a return in the first place. It can be a very lengthy process for an individual to get straightened out with the IRS and it can be an even lengthier amount of time for any resolution to happen.

Sadly, stolen identity refund fraud victims are the elderly and individuals who are not required to file tax returns. Criminals who steal this information often get away with it for a long time before being caught. Often the victim finds out when they apply for state or federal benefits and cannot receive them due to information found on the fraudulent returns.

The IRS and the Justice Department have begun cracking down on identity theft and have been active in fighting identity fraud. The IRS makes it clear that the agency is devoted to preventing identity fraud. The website has information on how to report suspected identity theft and the precautionary measures that people can so they don’t become a victim.

As Target breach grows, retailer embraces security options

Target’s data breach over the holiday season turned out to span far wider than the original numbers estimated.  The major retailer said the breach that happened between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013 compromised the financial information of approximately 40 million shoppers shortly after the breach occurred. Recently, the company informed consumers that it had uncovered an additional 70 million to 110 million customers who may have had their names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses stolen.

The data stolen from Target was originally thought to come from the terminals where customers swipe credit and debit cards. The retailer said originally that the only information affected was the information stored in the magnetic strips on the back of customers’ cards. The retailer learned shortly after that customers’ encrypted PIN data had also been obtained. The latest revelation by Target is raising more concerns because personal information isn’t stored on the magnetic strips on credit and debit cards.

Target’s data breach has severely impacted the company and will continue to as long as more information about the breach becomes known. The retailer has apologizes to customers for the broadening violations of customers’ private information.

“I know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken, and we are truly sorry they are having to endure this,” Gregg W. Steinhafel, Target’s chief executive, said in a statement to the New York Times.

Target is now offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to customer’s for one-year free.  The one-year offer includes a credit report, daily credit monitoring, identity theft resolution, identity theft insurance and ProtectMyID ExtendCARE, personalized assistance from a highly-trained Fraud Resolution Agent after the one-year period expires.

Target has listed tips for customers who wish to protect their information:

“Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number. Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don’t recognize. Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don’t click links within emails you don’t recognize.”

A FAQ page has been set up on Target’s website to deal with information regarding the data breach and information related to other scams.

Credit Card Processors Stealing from Business Clients

credit card scamsConsumers already worry about businesses storing and possibly stealing financial information. Now consumers have to worry about the credit card processors stealing the information from businesses. Recently, several proprietors of a credit card processing company  have been indicted on several charges in Phoenix, Arizona.

The various charges include money laundering, wire fraud charges, and changing contract terms among other charges. Sean Clinton Mecham, 36, Ashley Brisbin Mecham, 27, Jonathon L. Cannon, 31, and Jake Brisbin, 26, were all indicted by a federal grand jury.

According to court documents, the accused were executives and employees at Icon Payment Solutions, Axiom Merchant Services and Oracle Payment Services. These companies are all the same company just under different names and they processed credit card payments for retailers.  Prosecutors allege that the quartet were misleading customers, forging the signatures of business owners and deposited $2.9 million of the ill-gotten gains into personal accounts. The money was then used to buy a luxury boat, Maserati cars and off-road trucks for racing.

There were multiple complaints against the quartet and the companies that they owned to the Better Business Bureau.  The accused Continue reading Credit Card Processors Stealing from Business Clients

5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays

credit card scamsTraveling during the holidays should be fun. It shouldn’t be filled with worry and stress. Using a credit card instead of cash or a debit card can make travel during the holidays less stressful and less risky. Use these five tips to keep from becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

Pick One Card

Pick one credit card to take with you. Make sure you have a copy of it, but store this copy in a safe place. Carrying multiple cards can lead to the loss of one or more of them.  When you pack for traveling remember to remove all other cards and store them in a secure location.  If your wallet or purse get stolen while you are traveling it is much easier to deal with one stolen card instead of six.

Separate Your Credit Card from Purse or Wallet

Don’t keep your credit card in your purse or wallet. Purses and wallets, particularly  Continue reading 5 Credit Card Safety Tips for Travel during the Holidays