Tag Archives: email phishing

Back to School – Student Identity Theft

Identity theft is rampant. It it the fastest growing Internet crime and black college students should be aware of the vulnerability of their personal information.

According to the Better Business Bureau college students are prime targets because their credit records are usually clean.  College students are also more willing to share information in person and online. Visit any college campus, especially during the first week, and you will find numerous credit card companies offering their services to new and returning students. There are also other companies and marketers working to gather student information for their sales efforts. Students would be wise to avoid these information collectors. Be extremely careful what forms or surveys you fill out and what information you release to someone you really don’t know.

Combine that with the powerful urge to be social and you will find students sharing far too much information on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and other campus forums.

Teach your student that not everyone on campus, student or not, is a friend. Half of all identity theft cases reported are executed by someone the victim knows. This is why it so important that all students, African-American especially, jealously guard their personal information.

The college dorm room is a vulnerability for careless students. BBB CEO Kelvin Collins said, “Protect your information. Don’t leave bank statements, credit card statements or your wallet just laying out for other people to find.”

Campus mailboxes are another vulnerability. Students should send sensitive mail to their permanent addresses. Students should also  check their financial statements often to look for suspicious activity or purchases.

Make sure you or your student are aware of the campus privacy policies. Ask questions about who the campus shares information with. You might be surprised. Some universities sell student SAT and ACT scores, their financial information such a student loan data and even what books they check out and classes they take.

There are steps that a student can take to protect their identity.

  1. Be aware of dumpster diving – Students receive a lot of offers through the mail. Don’t just throw these things away. Identity thieves are checking campus trash cans and will often find student’s personal information. They may find enough to apply for a credit card in the students name. This is really very common.  Make sure you use a shredder on all your unwanted mail. A good paper shredder can be as cheap as $10.00.  Make use of email delivered credit card bills or bank statements.
  2. Check you mailbox frequently – Breaking into student mailboxes is not uncommon.  Be alert, has your mail suddenly stopped?  An identity thief  may have filled out a change of address form against your address. Check with postal officials if something does not seem right.
  3. Monitor your identity…closely Make use of credit monitoring services. Check all your accounts at least once a month . This includes bank accounts, credit cards, and utility bills. Look for suspicious charges you didn’t authorize, no matter  how small.  Identity thieves will often test a charge account with a small purchase to see if they can use your identity. If they succeed they go on a spending spree.  Are you getting notifications in the mail or your e-mail about accounts you know nothing about?  Don’t just delete the notice, investigate. Calls from creditors or collection agencies may indicate you have already been victimized. Report this immediately to the police, your bank, your legitimate credit accounts and all the credit reporting agencies.  Get a yearly copy of your credit report. You can visit www.annualcreditreport.com, or call toll-free 877-322-8228 to receive your report.
  4. Know whats in your wallet or purseMost people, actually 95 percent, carry a wallet or purse with them at all times. But very few can tell you exactly what’s in it. The contents of your wallet or purse probably include your driver’s license, or social security card, extremely valuable forms of identification. These documents are the target of identity thieves. Guard your wallet or purse at all times. Don’t relax around you dorm roommates. Make a list of all identity documents and credit cards you carry with you. Write down your driver’s license number and other important numbers. And be prepared to take action if your wallet or purse is stolen. In the event your wallet or purse is stolen notify every agency responsible for the items on your list immediately. Don’t wait to see if it re-appears or if someone turns in to lost and found.  Being proactive will save you the headache of trying to remember what you have in your wallet and the agony of having your identity stolen. And never, ever, keep your social security number on you. A favorite move of an experienced identity thief is to steal your purse or wallet, copy the information and then turn it in to lost and found or return it to you. This has the affect of causing you to relax and not alert the proper officials. Keep that in mind.  Memorize your social security number and lock it away in a safe location.
  5. Phishing attacks/Social engineeringA professional scammer is an expert at convincing you that they are someone else. On the phone its sometimes called social engineering. Using email its called a phishing attacks. They do this to manipulate you into revealing information. This activity is frequently associated with online scams, often using email messages that look official or seem to be from someone you know. But not always.  Students need to be especially alert to this. Be on the lookout for these types of scams, especially in your e-mail. You may get an email that looks like its from a school official. For example, it may look like its from the school financial aid office. Do not click on any link or attachment in the e-mail. Don’t reply if you have any suspicion at all. Make sure you know the school policy for contacting students via email or what they can discussed on the phone.  Identity thieves that use phishing attacks and social engineering are very skilled at making any e-mail look very legitimate or sound official on the phone. Don’t just assume because it has the school logo on it it is safe. Emails can be easily duplicated and email addresses can be spoofed. Be cautious, this is your personal information we are talking about.

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime online because it is profitable. Students can be careless and relaxed around their friends and classmates. But, again, most identity theft is done by people you know. Be aware and be alert to how identity thieves works and save yourself some headaches this school year.

Now you know.

Tax Season 2017 – Talk to Parents and Grandparents About Tax Scams

Tax season is scam season. It is also a good time to talk to elderly people about their tax returns. In the age of the Internet, email and smartphones older people to get confused and even intimidated by the technology. And scam artists know this.

For elderly African-Americans information security is a key concept they need to understand. Something as simple a securing sensitive papers can make a great deal of difference. African-American seniors need to understand that simple documents such as a utility bill can lead to identity theft. These are new concepts for many older people.

Some elderly people live in senior citizens homes or assisted living facilities. Others have in home care. These older people, because of their situation, are vulnerable. If you have a parent, grandparent or elderly reative in this situation make sure mail and other documents are properly secured. Live-in or visiting caregivers are supposed to be trusted but we know that is not always the case.

Makes sure they understand that they are not to give any information over the phone. Fake IRS scam artists are very skilled at intimidating and confusing older people on the phone. Make sure they know to hang up the phone immediately. Remember, some calls are phishing calls. This is where the caller asks question to get information that is just the beginning of the scam. They use methods known as social engineering. Older people are vulnerable because they may fall for a friendly voice on the other end asking seemingly innocent questions. Other times they may think they are talking to the IRS.  Again, remind them never give informaion over the phone.

Ask questions; who is preparing their taxes? Is this a legitimate company? Can they be trusted? How is their information handled and secured? How much are they charging? All these question maybe intrusive but if you feel your parents or grandparents are vulnerable then its better to be an nuisance now than to regret it later.

Some older people do indeed use the Internet to shop, send email and conduct other business. Make sure they understand that the IRS does not conduct business by email. Teach them to avoid clicking on links or opening attachments.

Finally, persuade older people to ask for help. Many older people guard their independence jealously. They want to feel they are in control of their own lives. Make sure they know you are there to help them and protect them.

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Is That Website Trustworthy?

Bad SantaAfrican-Americans all over the county are about to dive into the holiday  season to exercise close to a trillion dollars in buying power.  And you can bet a lot of that money will be spent online this season. So the question black people should be asking is; Is that website trustworthy?

Internet holiday shopping scams cost Americans more than $50 million in 2014. Much of the holiday scams involved phony sales from dubious websites. These websites offer hard to believe prices. The old rule still apples; if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

So how can you tell if a website is real or not? First lets start with one of the oldest tricks in the book, fake or replica websites. Cyber criminals are very, very good at creating websites that look exactly like legitimate online stores. You may find one by accident or it may arrive in you email inbox. Cyber criminals will send out emails that lure unsuspecting consumers to their fake website that look exactly like Walmart.com or Amazon.com  or any of the popular online stores. The email may say that you have been selected for a special sale for a limited number of customers. You will find prices you won’t believe and you may even click on the link. Here is where you get taken. That link will take you to a website that looks exactly like Walmart.com but it won’t be. Look closely; the URL or website may read Wall-mart.com or Wallmart.com or Amozon.com or something very similar to the real site but designed to trick you. Be aware! Examine the URL or web address of the website carefully for anything that does not look right. Hover you cursor over the ink and look at the web address that pops up. This is a classic scam that robs thousands of people every holiday season.

If you enter your credit card information into one if these fake websites you can bet your card will be maxed out in a matter of hours.

Smart shoppers will explore the Internet for the best bargains. And these consumers will find good deals but may question the website’s trustworthiness. Fortunately there are websites that specialize in measuring website trustworthiness. Start by learning how to identify a trustworthy website here.

logoOne of the top website trust services is ScamAdviser.com. The site is easy to use and interpret and can save you money and headaches. Simply enter the web address into box and click on ‘Check It Now’. The site will return a grade on a sliding bar that will tell you exactly how trustworthy the site is. You can see what other people have been checking by clicking on the ‘Recent Checks’ menu tab. Click on the ‘Risk Sites” tab and see instantly the websites that have been labeled risky or untrustworthy. If you have a question or interest you can find answers under the ‘Forums’ tab .

Be aware that the FBI has already warned consumers that cyber scammers will be out in force this holiday season. And again the FBI warns about deals that seem too good to be true.

The FBI warns consumer of some very common tricks. These include, as was mentioned earlier, sending phishing emails advertising hard-to-get items. If you get caught in this scam it could end up costing you more than money. You could see your holiday season go down the toilet by having all your personal and credit card information stolen. And beware of  social media traps. These traps work by offerings free $500 gift cards seemingly posted by a friend. The truth behind this trap is that your friend’s account has probably been hacked and the hacker is looking for more victims.

 Now you know.

 

 

 

 

Reacting to Online Fraud

You want to see a black person mad? Have them pay for something and not get what they paid for. Fraud is a reality whenever you shop online. And nothing is more frustrating than not knowing who to call when you discover you have been ripped off.

According to the  FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 there were 262,813 complaints of Internet crime filed with the agency last year alone. Of that number 119, 457 or 45% reported actual financial losses. So how much money was lost to online fraud in 2013? How about $781,841,611! Yeah; I used an exact number because you need to see exactly how much money the criminals are raking in. The average victim lost $2,975  to online fraud. Again, exact numbers. You can see all the stats in the IC3 2013 Internet Crime Report.

Imagine how much larger those numbers would be if all the crime was actually reported. It is believed that as much as 15% of online fraud is never reported because the victims are just too embarrassed. 

Shopping or conducting business online is fairly secure if you take the right precautions. But what if you lose money to a fraud or scam? Who do you report it to? First let me say this; if you call your local police they may be woefully untrained on how to handle a cyber crime. Its not their fault. Investigating cyber crime is a specialized task that is beyond their pay grade. If you got ripped off by a fake charity that comes to your door they may be able to help. But a cyber crime that may originate half a world away is just out of their league.

One of the most common scams that strike people online is the phishing attack.  A phishing scam is when a cyber criminal tries to trick you into revealing potentially valuable information. The same information that was stolen from JP Morgan.

The criminal will create an email that is a near perfect duplicate of an email from your bank or other trusted source. The email may warn you about a potential security incident then provide you a link to click on for further information,  or to go to the website or a security patch or something like that.

If you click on the link one of two things are going to happen. You may be taken to a duplicate website and asked for your user name and password. Or you may download some form of malware that could steal valuable information. Most banks and other financial institutions do not communicate this way. My advice is never, ever click on a link you are not absolutely certain of what it is.  But if you do…

1) Forward the phishing email and link along to the company being imitated. If they impersonated your bank or other financial service provider make sure you let the bank know and forward the email to them as well.

2) Contact your local law enforcement and at least complete a police report. Also report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.

3) Remember that a paper trail is your best friend. Your bank or credit card company keeps excellent records. You should too. Keep a record of all the calls  you make and to whom you spoke with, your statements with the suspicious transactions and any other correspondence or documentation required.  If enough people report this scam it could trigger a community alert. Inform a government consumer protection agency or relevant tech firm.    

4) Delete the message once you’ve done all this and add the email address to your spam folder so you never have to see it again.

Most legitimate online shopping sites will offer a way for customers to dispute a sale or charge or report fraud of any kind.

For example if you get caught up in PayPal themed phishing campaign you will need to contact PayPal’s fraud department.  Do a simple web search for PayPal Phishing or PayPal Fraud. Remember that these cyber criminals can craft an absolutely flawless copy of a PayPal site or email so don’t click on or respond to anything suspicious. Once you are in touch with the real PayPal they will tell you exactly what to do. Nearly every bank and online merchant will have a procedure to report phishing and fraud. Use it. And the next question is; if they don’t why are you doing business with them?

I shop online regularly. And I worry about what happens if I don’t receive what I ordered. This rarely happens. But what if it did?

Disputing charges or an order is a skill you have to master if you shop online. You have to learn who and how to report it. How to return it and if necessary how to get your money back? Or what if you are overcharged? You need to learn how to dispute and get the correct product or money back.  Here are some effective steps for dealing with disputed or fraudulent transactions.

1) Contact the organization where the charges are coming from. Most legitimate organizations  have a fast and efficient system to help the customer. They want to correct the situation as soon as possible. And they will. These merchants will provide return shipping and refunds if the order or the price is not right. I have even returned items and got a coupon for the next time I shop on their site. They want your business.

2) But if that’s not the case or doesn’t solve your problem, contact your bank or credit card provider. You may be able to block the charges or even get your money back. Some credit card issuers and banks have fraud protections for their card holders. Merchants take notice when the bank or a credit card company calls. They don’t want that kind of trouble.

3) You may need to contact law enforcement or the Better Business Bureau or the IC3. Don’t hesitate if you think you’ve been ripped off. And don’t be afraid to take to social media and let them have it! You’ll be surprised what happens if you send out a Tweet.

Sites like eBay and Amazon are market providers. They simply create the online site where people sell directly to each other. There are many sites that specialize in providing a marketplace for buyer and sellers. Some online marketplaces carry very specific or unique products and others carry just about everything like Craigslist. A very dangerous place if you don’t know what you’re doing and how to protect yourself.  Now eBay and Amazon and many other online marketplaces are very diligent at protecting their customers and their reputations. But using these sites means you have to protect yourself.  Learn how they fight fraud before you get involved with them. eBay has an excellent system in place to judge the sellers on their site and are very responsive to complaints. Same for Amazon. Learn how to use their systems. But if something does happen you’ll need to follow their specific instructions for handling fraudulent sellers. Amazon and eBay are definitely ready to fight fraud with you and for you. 

Remember there are ways to fight online fraud. You have to educate yourself to spot it before it happens and how to react when it does happen. There is no software that is going to do the job for you.

Now you know