PII at Risk Part 2: Why Your Phone Number is Valuable to Hackers

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Last time we met, I explained why your email account is valuable to hackers—what value it has and how it could be used to gain access to more of your coveted personally identifiable information (PII) than you might think.   But it’s not just your email that hackers want; they want your phone number, too. Cell phone numbers are particularly valuable, as they have become the modern-day equivalent of your wallet. Your mobile device contains valuable information like your contacts list (a great way to get a list of your friends—future identity theft targets), affinity account and reward numbers  (frequent flyer miles have value that thieves can cash in on), web history, and other equally valuable information. Using your phone number, two tactics are then commonly deployed. Let’s see … [Read more...]

PII at Risk Part 1: Why Your Email Account is Valuable to Hackers

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Identity is a funny thing. I used to think I knew exactly what it was made of—Social Security number, date of birth, and first and last name. Period. But then came the Internet and the notion of identity began to change and evolve along with the latest technology. Now I’m also known by my Twitter handle, Facebook name, and even my Xbox gamertag. Increasingly, in an online world, people know not only my name, but also my email address.   The miscreants of the “dark web” (anonymous, virtually untraceable global networks used by criminals) are looking for email addresses to harvest. Why? Because they make money selling consumer’s online credentials—usernames and passwords to online accounts for companies like iTunes, Groupon, dell, overstock, Walmart, BestBuy, etc[i]. These login … [Read more...]

The real-life effects of data breaches and identity theft

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Due to what feels like a constant flow of data breach announcements, the threat of identity theft has become common knowledge. We hear of personal information being stolen or exposed, but how that stolen information is used remains somewhat of a mystery unless you’ve actually experienced it. So let’s take a minute to imagine what it would really be like to become a victim of identity theft. Here are three scenarios.   1. Your favorite store gets hacked Hundreds of businesses are affected by data breaches every year, and these data breaches can expose your personal information. The real victim is the consumers, not the businesses themselves. Only a few weeks ago EBay suffered a data breach affecting its millions of consumers. It appears the hackers didn’t get any financial … [Read more...]

Medical Data Breaches: Why Your Doctor Might Need a Check Up

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Think about the last time you went to the doctor’s office. Did you fill out a form with your Social Security number (SSN)? Were you prescribed any medicine? Did you disclose past allergic reactions?     Now think about what an identity thief could do with that kind of information. There’s a myriad of options, which is one of the reasons why medical identity theft impacted almost half (43%) of all identity theft victims in 2013. To get your information, an identity thief might hack your doctor’s digital filing system, find records leaked on file-sharing sites by an employee, or simply steal your doctor’s laptop. No matter how the data breach occurs, you’re left cleaning up a potentially life threatening mess. Here are just three potential … [Read more...]

Cloud Security: Keeping your information safe in the cloud

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Although we have a long ways to go to conquering outer space, we should look perhaps a bit closer to our own atmosphere and consider the following: How safe are the contents we store in the cloud?   What’s this ‘cloud’ you speak of? Good question. Cloud services are applications that are Software as a Service (SaaS) based and hosted on OPP — Other People’s Property — so that a user is not required to download and install a software package in order to use the service. All you need is the Internet browser of your choice and you’re good to go.   Millions of consumers interact and store massive amounts of personal data every day. For example, those of us who watch Netflix or use Instagram to send pictures — all that content is stored in the cloud. DropBox, a file storage … [Read more...]

How to Help Your Child Avoid ID Theft

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A blog post for myFICO Kids – Making financial awareness, protection & health a part of the entire family.   Earlier this month we posted an article about the abundance of child ID theft and what parents can watch for to protect their children from those who may be seeking a new identity. Identity theft is highly preventable, not only for parents, but for children as well. Our youth are growing up with new technological advances that give them access to all things the internet has to offer. Most classes today even require the use of the Internet for research or projects.   One study found that 85% percent of kids aged 12-17 used social media networks in 2013, with 94% of teens on Facebook. With the constant updates to Facebook, everything your teen posts - status … [Read more...]

Paranoid, Apathetic or Empowered:
Your Smart-Consumer Action Plan

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Protecting yourself as a consumer is pragmatic, not paranoid. I by no means encourage you to obsessively guard all traces of your personal information. If you take that approach, you’ll end up a recluse with a hoarding problem. But the reality is, how we transact has changed—we’re mobile, online and nationwide. So we’ve got to change the way we protect ourselves.   National Consumer Protection Week might be coming to end, but being a smart consumer means developing lifelong habits. That’s why we’ve provided a smart-consumer action plan. Print these tips, reference them often. Eventually, these steps should become habits so that every time you purchase, share, invest, donate or borrow, you will be better protected.   Your Smart-Consumer Action Plan   1. … [Read more...]

Consumer Protection Rights & Your Children

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A blog post for myFICO Kids – Making financial awareness, protection & health a part of the entire family.   National Consumer Protection Week is an annual campaign that creates awareness about consumer information and protection. There’s actually a lot of regulation put into place to protect consumers that many people don’t even know about.   Thanks to the CARD Act, consumers are protected from unfair rate hikes, retroactive rates and late-fee traps, and important terms and conditions must be publicly available. That’s just to name a few. What you may not realize though, is that consumer protection isn’t extended just to adults; children need protection, too. Your child’s personal information, like yours, is protected by law. Sadly, identity theft threatens the … [Read more...]

The IRS & You: Why Your Tax Refund Needs a Body Guard

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With all the major breach announcements in the last few years, I think I can safely assume that this has become common knowledge: Identity theft is a serious threat. If you’re still skeptical, consider this: someone became an identity theft victim every two seconds last year.   With that said, identity theft is also a broad and complex crime that’s hard to defend yourself against. Thieves have dozens of ways they can steal your personal information, and countless crimes they can commit with it. Sometimes they’re after your money; sometimes they’re after your good reputation. During tax season, they’re after both.   Why Identity Thieves Like Tax Season a Lot More Than You Do   Oh tax season, that wonderful time of the year where millions of Americans gather … [Read more...]

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