This article is also posted on a few related web sites.
Over the last year we have all noticed a tremendous increase in the number of news items about Bank fraud, Credit and Debit card fraud, email spam attacks, Internet fraud and Identity Theft. In the USA identity theft is on the rise, with 11.1 million victims and an increase of 12% over last year. (Source: Grand Rapids, MI (PRWEB) October 26, 2010). Estimated losses exceed $100 Billion US Dollars. Other sources say that, as of December, 2010 the problems is now doubling every year.
Even J. Edgar Hoover, the former director of the F.B.I. would never have dreamed how things have changed in this modern world.
Now, I've decided that it is not enough just to complain about the problems. If all of us do not help fix the problems, they will only get worse. This is so serious a matter that, if it continues, will limit our ability to freely use our computers and Internet activities could slowly (or suddenly) grind to a stop. I think it is time for all of us to get proactive and block, catch and prosecute these Internet bad guys. We have all got a job to do and I am confident that with a concerted effort from all computer and Internet users worldwide that we can take back this onslaught from these Computer and Other Fraud artistes; these Internet bad guys:
Report fraudulent activities so that the authorities can deal with Internet and other fraud. These are the links to reporting sites. FBI - Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | Home, Interpol - Information Technology Crime and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Take some time out of your busy lives to learn about the scams and frauds. Take steps to protect yourself. If you have not been doing some of these things already, you may already be compromised. Tips to avoid fraud: FBI, Interpol Checklists, RCMP Scams and Fraud, RCMP Internet Security.
Proceeding as cautiously as I usually do, last year I was personally caught in a criminally fraudulent process, a phishing scam. My simple mistake, I think, was made when I typed in my email account name and password into my computer while I was in a Starbucks (or any other 'open' and unencrypted site). Once I was on an 'open network' someone (and, it could have been anyone in the vicinity of that wireless open site) copied all of my email address book information and sent out 'phony' emails to my contacts, pretending to be me, Stan Webb.
Now I am doubly careful. After that incident I took my computer in for a security review, 'scrubbed' the hard drive of all malicious, suspicious looking material. And, added more anti-spyware and anti-virus programs, and turned on all systems for daily virus definition updating. I've spent much of the last 8 months to doubly secure my systems and learn other suggestions to help us all increase our security. I pass these on to you, with links, if you are interested.
Of course, among many other things including notifying you that I had been scammed, I had to change all of my many passwords. I did find a great way to do that efficiently and for free at LastPass 1 (more information at the bottom 1 ).
In an effort to combat bad guy's Internet shenanigans I joined WOT - Web of Trust which allows us all to report dubious sites and THEN it automatically temporarily blocks a problem site, giving us the chance to proceed, or not.
If you'll forgive me for a moment, I'll revert to my teaching days. Of course we should always set-up modern anti-virus, anti-spyware, e-mail scanner, link scanner, resident shield and related programs. But, as already mentioned, there is one more step you might like to take. I've joined a group that allows us all to intervene to try and limit these problem:
Safe Browsing Tool | WOT Web of Trust - WOT is a community-based, free safe surfing tool for browsers that provides website ratings & reviews to help web users as they search, surf & shop on line – before they even enter a potential problem site. WOT is backed by all of the Internet heavy weights, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and all! Once you join you will actually become a reviewer and can report any site against several standards that are established.
For instance, this week a friend referred me to a site to check my driver's license information. When I tried to open it, because I have WOT installed, I was given a big RED CIRCLE warning. The site referred to me is not a trustworthy site. Do you know who this is? It had all of the hallmarks of a fraud and I subsequently reported it to the RCMP - Reporting Scams and Frauds.
A typical spamming scheme is for someone to gather a lot of your personal information, and after that, clicking a box. That might any box asking for a mouse click, even if one that is written 'please remove'. You may not actually know it, but by clicking on a box "Please Remove" that, in itself, may be just a lie. In fact, it might actually give this curiosity seeker full access to your computer.
This looked like the type of fraudulent activities that the authorities are trying to get a handle on. These links to their sites will take you to information and reporting. FBI - Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | Home, Interpol - Information Technology Crime and the RCMP. Tips to avoid fraud: FBI, Interpol Checklists, RCMP Scams and Fraud, RCMP Internet Security.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre advises consumers not to open unsolicited emails or when the sender is unknown. Spam usually means scam. Just delete them!
For more information, please do not hesitate to visit their website: www.antifraudcentre.ca
Le Centre Anti Fraude du Canada recommande aux consommateurs de ne pas ouvrir les courriels non sollicités; polluriel veut généralement dire fraude. N’ouvrez pas un courriel dont l’expéditeur vous est inconnu. Il suffit de les effacer!
Pour de plus amples renseignements, vous pouvez consulter notre site web : www.centreantifraude.ca
Be wary of pop up messages that call for an action. Do not download unwanted software from these kind of pop ups as they are quite likely have harmful software that can damage your computer or steal your personal information. Following the above and below guidelines will greatly help to protect you from Internet fraud, identity theft, spam and Internet scams. Also check out websites like The Internet Watchdog for more advice.
Even without access to your computer the bad guys in the Internet world can cross correlate to all of the other information on the Internet, or in your garbage can. With just with your name and address, they can access your telephone number, they can access your personal property records, registered loans outstanding and so much more information that is openly available on 'public - open source' web sites, like govt property records.
There goal may be to eventually get your job pay stub and employer's name, your CPP, Bank Account, Debit and Credit Card, Insurance Policy, Old Age Security, Passport Information, Social Insurance or Social Security Number, Unemployment Insurance, Welfare receipts and any other information that will allow them gain access to all of your information - possibly setting you up for a case of 'identity theft'. A typical spamming scheme is for someone to gather a lot of your personal information including bank account, debit and credit card information. There have been many successful frauds committed this way – just by withdrawing all of the money out of your bank accounts, and getting a copy of you PIN number on your Credit/Debit Cards, and/or destroy your credit rating and make a mess of your entire financial life. The Internet bad guys just do not care about you.
Of course, you know that you should shred all of your incoming mail.3 Very often, dumpster divers are after a way more than bottles and cans. They are after information about your whole life. One of the things they may be getting ready to do is to send out change of address cards to all of your creditors, even to your pension and Income Department. That may give them a few months lead-time to do bad things, without you even knowing it.
1 The Last Password You'll Have to Remember! - LastPass is a password manager that makes web browsing easier and more secure. A full explanations is provided in a one hour and fifty-four minute (1:54) Audio or Video about Security Now 256: LastPass Security, from Leo LaPorte & Friends (in this case with Steve Gibson (TwiT).
The holiday spirit seems to conjure up the criminal spirit too, as the holidays often see a spike in the amount of identity theft, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center | A Nonprofit Organization (ITRC), which is a nonprofit United States national organization for identity theft. Provides consumer & victim support, public education, …
With more people shopping on line, the increased pool of victims seems to lure out identity thieves right along with those out for a shopping spree. Since you are at more risk during the holiday season than you are at other times of the year, take some necessary precautions to further protect your identity, your credit and your money.
2 Guard Your Credit Cards
The plastic seems to fly out more than usual as a way to make holiday purchases. While there are advantages to using credit cards, doing so also increases the chances that your credit card information may land in the wrong hands. If you’re shopping on line, make sure that you’re checking out on a secure server. This is often indicated on the site with the letters SSL or with a verification badge, such as Verisign, that authenticates it is a safe site. A secure site scrambles your credit card information when it is transmitted from the shopping cart of the website to the credit card processor. This prohibits a thief from reading and fraudulently using your credit card information.
If you’re shopping on line, check with your bank to see if it offers a one-time-use credit card number that you can plug in when you’re making a purchase. This helpful tool prevents identity theft since the digits can only be used once.
Many of my clients also use PayPal – to Send Money, Pay Online and/or Set Up a Merchant Account, because of its verification protocols.
If you’re shopping off line, pay with cash instead, if you can. This saves your information from being stolen or 'swiped', and eliminates the heart attack that can come with the credit card statement after the holidays are over.
3 Shred and Destroy
During the holiday rush, it is also easy to lose track of important information or discard this information without giving it much thought. Avoid throwing away credit card receipts, packing slips and bill statements that contain your name, address, credit card information and other personal information that thieves can use to commit identity fraud. Believe it or not, one of the primary ways thieves get your information is by “dumpster diving,” which essentially equates to plucking this information out of your trash. With but a few pieces of your information, a savvy thief can piece together enough data to apply for new credit in your name or fraudulently use your existing information to spend your money. Shred, cut up and tear any papers that contain any of your personal information.
4 Monitor Activity
When your credit card or bank statements come in the mail or land in your email in box, review them line-by-line. Make sure there are no charges or purchases that you do not recognize. Better yet, sign onto your credit card or bank accounts on line and review your purchases at least once a week. If you notice any unusual activity, contact the credit card issuer or your bank immediately. The faster you react to identity theft, the better your chances are of stopping it, and preventing any further damage.
While identity theft may not be stoppable, there are some simple steps you can take during the holiday season to further protect yourself from falling prey. Shop safely with your credit cards or use cash, shred and destroy any receipts, packing slips or bills that contain personal information, and carefully monitor your statement activity. These three simple steps can go a long way in keeping the identity thieves away.
5 Do not accept telephone solicitations
Register at the various Do Not Call lists and/or Registry websites set up to help block telephone solicitations – Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States instructions are all listed on this link: Stop Telephone Solicitations (Unwanted Telephone SPAM)
6 Do not accept 'junk' mail, mark it 'return to sender', postage due - as for email spam, block it without opening it
Register at the various Do Not Solicit lists and/or Registry websites set up to help block postage 'snail mail and e-mail solicitations – Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States instructions are all listed on this link: Stop Advertising Material (Junk Mail) and eMail (Unwanted 'over-the-transom' Mail SPAM and inbox eMail SPAM). DO NOT throw junk mail in the garbage without first shredding it.
7 Do not allow yourself to be duped by 'door-to-door' solicitations or unsolicited approaches on the street.
Unless you really, really know and recognize the individual and the cause (Ie: Salvation Army 'Red Kettle Campaign') stay away from all solicitations, unless you initiate the request for information, and then only pledge to donate to the organization's head quarters, after you have had a chance to check them out. Do not donate at the door or on the street, even receipts can be forged by someone looking for their next drug purchase, criminals, fraudsters and foreign terrorists. Tips: FBI — Common Fraud Schemes , INTERPOL INTERNATIONAL (search by categories), Types of Fraud - RCMP
8 Never divulge personal information about yourself, your family, your friends or neighbors to strangers. It is your own business. Let you family, friends and neighbors know you are trying to protect yourself and everybody, and ask them to pass this information along, for themselves, as well.
9 Avoid Holiday Scams – see Holiday Hoaxes from AARP
In the season of giving, charity con artists do plenty of taking.
Please BE CAREFUL out there, and help the rest of us report the bad guys so they can be caught and hopefully stopped BEFORE they also get our good neighbor or grandmother. Please do not try to get in the middle and try to fix a potential threat by yourself, that is what the police are trained to do.
I hope you have a safe and happy holiday.
Fraud crackdown nets 500 people (bbc.co.uk)
PhishLabs Joins Internet Fraud Alert (eon.businesswire.com)
U.S. fraud probe: $10 billion in swindling (money.cnn.com)
The Sad and Deplorable State of Internet Security (securityskeptic.typepad.com)
Avoid the lump of coal in your holiday shopping carts (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
FBI target 23-year-old Russian man behind a third of world's spam emails (dailymail.co.uk)