Enterprise Security Magazine has once again recognized Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions as a Top 10 Identity and Access Management (IAM) Solutions Provider. The magazine first featured Guard Well’s Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, in 2019. Their article, “An Intelligent Way to Protect Your Employees,” can be found HERE.
It’s tax season! For some, preparing and filing taxes is an hour or two-long process; for others, it’s a week or more. By year-end, the majority of us know if we will owe or if we are due to receive a refund … it’s just a matter of how much … and we are happy that everything is completed once tax season is over. Things don’t typically go awry, but tax-related fraud does happen. Knowing how to lower your risk and knowing what to do if it does occur to you, will help prevent the lasting damages to your wallet and credit score.
Let’s say for this example that you will be receiving a refund. Imagine looking forward to getting that money so you can pay off those holiday bills or plan that special vacation you’ve been day-dreaming of (or perhaps both if you’re lucky). After preparing your taxes, you happily press “send.” But then WHAM! … your return is rejected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because they already received one for you. How could that happen and what do you do if it does?
Tax identity theft is when someone uses a stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return. You may be wondering, “Why would someone want to do this if I will actually owe taxes?” Even if you aren’t expecting a refund, you are still at risk. Thieves can enter fake income using your SSN in order to trick the IRS into giving a refund but, instead of that money going to you, it is actually wired to the criminal’s account. Even though the IRS has made significant efforts to help stop fraud cases in their tracks in recent years, it still happens.
Is tax fraud preventable? No. Are there steps you can take to help reduce your risk? Yes.
– Time is of the essence. Prepare and file your return as quickly as possible before someone else does it for you.
– Protect your personal identifying information (PII) by: 1) shredding documents that you do not need for tax preparation; 2) keeping your SSN card in a safe deposit box; 3) taking any outgoing mail to your local post office (do not put any mail with PII in your own mailbox – even though federal mail theft is a felony, it still happens); 4) getting your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered; 5) not responding to a phone call asking for or requesting that you confirm any PII (the IRS and legitimate companies will not initiate contact with you for this information unless you have reached out to them first); 6) not opening email attachments or clicking on any links that are not familiar to you; and 7) keeping your personal devices on lockdown unless you are using them (utilize firewalls and keep your anti-virus protection software up-to-date).
– If you think your PII has already been compromised, consider putting a free fraud alert on your credit file. There are two options: 1) an initial fraud alert, which is free and will last 90 days or 2) an extended fraud alert, which can be $10 or more but can last up to seven years.
– Actively monitor your accounts. You can access your tax account history (and see if someone has already filed for you) at https://www.irs.gov/.
– Get a trustworthy tax preparer. There are people who pose as tax preparers as well as online filing services that may promise you a bigger refund and/or may make questionable deductions for you in order to increase their fee. If you are seeking professional help, make sure it is from a certified tax professional or certified public accountant.
If your tax return is rejected due to being a ‘duplicate,’ an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) should be filed as soon as possible to let the IRS know that someone else is using your identity. Contact Guard Well’s Member Services at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) immediately if needed. A team member is always available 24/7/365. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy filing!
Did you know that the first documented ransomware attack was more than 30 years ago in 1989? That was around the time when a mobile phone was called a bag phone because it sat in a big black bag in your passenger seat … and that curly cord was wound so tight it hardly let it extend to your ear. If you were lucky, you could store about 30 numbers in it. But back then, that was pretty amazing storage. Then flip phones started to make our lives easier in later years. It was pretty simple but the fact that it could actually fit in your pocket made it truly mobile. There was rarely a thought that anyone was listening in on your conversations or tracking your locations (which they probably were but the average person didn’t think doing so was devious). Boy, have times changed.
Attacks involving ransomware, which were originally designed to target individuals, are occurring every 14 seconds now. Shocking isn’t it. After you read this sentence, focus on how long it takes you to breathe … inhale and exhale. Your full circle breathing process is likely anywhere from six to eight seconds, which is how long hackers are trying to increase the speed of ransomware attacks by this time next year.
Dave Wallen discussed some of the expected 2020 cybersecurity trends in a blog last week for Security Boulevard so we all can be “better prepared against the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats.” He wrote, “With today’s pervasive use of the internet, a modern surge in cyberattacks and the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see how ignoring security decades ago was a massive flaw.” It’s not just the speed of the attacks that is alarming, it is the variety of them that are going to keep things interesting for 2020.
So what are some of the trends we will be seeing in 2020?
– Fear will drive spending. Gartner forecasts that worldwide spending on cybersecurity is going to reach $133.7 billion in 2022. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) have pushed businesses and government agencies to a more sophisticated cybersecurity infrastructure than ever. Wallen noted that 76% of organizations plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets this year.
– The cybersecurity labor market will continue to experience labor shortages. There are many reasons for this skills gap. Not only are there more cybercriminals, but there are also more places for scammers to hide with our ever-expanding reliance on technology. Also, there still needs to be a balance of expanding skills in a very specific area with teaching broad skills that can be useful across many sectors. Think of those with titles such as chief information officer (CIO) and chief information security officer (CISO) – they are currently undervalued.
– Cloud security will require a more pragmatic approach. The assumption that our data is secure on ‘the cloud’ in applications such as Microsoft and Google will be a thing of the past. In 2019, we saw massive attacks against Office 365 and G Suite that can bypass two-factor authentification making shared accounts exceptionally vulnerable.
– Mobile devices will become even a greater target. As the number of mobile users increases, so will the amount of business data stored in them. Wallen wrote, “It’s a compelling reason why mobiles are seen as the primary cyberattack vector in 2020.”
– Election security will be off the charts. With over 70 elections globally planned in 2020, there will be an intense focus on the spreading of disinformation.
– 5G, the fifth-generation wireless technology, will cause an increase in loT-based (Internet of Things) attacks. There will need to be a higher level of security which many current vendors are not able to provide yet. Hackers will take advantage of this gap to “sneak in malware and steal large volumes of your SaaS data at breakneck speed.”
– AI (Artificial Intelligence) will become even more two-faced. While the benefits of AI are countless and help to protect our security, defakes (fake videos) that can spread misinformation will become more prominent and new types of cyberattacks will result because of them.
– Organizations will continue to see their biggest asset, their employees, become their biggest threat. As reported in Governing.com, “The problem is that now our most important information, whether it’s sales prospects or customer lists or source code … is spread across the organization and is highly portable on a thumb drive or e-mail … information is less ‘siloed.'” Their study shows that “63 percent of people admit that they took data from their last job and brought it to their current job.”
We will also continue to see more fake apps and shopping cart viruses, new account fraud, apps that share our data along with phishing scams (and whaling scams if you’re a high-ranking executive or banker). Identity theft will also be rampant through social media. Lastly, child identity theft will continue to rise. It is suggested that every child have a credit freeze on their file. If you would like more information about how to do so, please reach out to our Member Services team at email@example.com or call 1.888.966.4827. We are here to help 24/7/365.
It’s not just a new year … it’s a new decade. Not quite the ‘Age of Aquarius’ type of timestamp, but a new decade brings hope and positivity for our families and futures. It’s around this time in mid-January that many of us realize, “Hey, that exercise plan I agreed to do on January 1st at 12:06 am, that was just an example, not something I actually have to do on a daily or weekly basis and certainly not for the next ten years!” By the way, the same goes for those clean eating goals, too. If you can eat clean four or even five out of seven days, you’re likely in the bonus.
On average it takes about two months for a new behavior to become a habit (or if you are a supporter of the 21/90 rule, it may take a bit longer). Why is this a topic in our blog? Because how we write the year out today is going to have to break an old habit of abbreviating it, as many of us have done for the last nine years. The simple truth is that scammers are trying to forge our documents when we just write ’20’ instead of ‘2020.’
As reported by CNN’s Harmeet Kaur, “When the year 2020 is abbreviated on official forms and documents, those looking to exploit unsuspecting people can easily manipulate those numbers and leave people potentially vulnerable to fraud.” Auditors and police departments around the country have been notifying the public that when you write a date on a document, to not shorthand the year 2020 to just ’20.’ A document dated 1/4/20 can easily be changed to 1/4/2021 by adding two numbers at the end. Or, it could go the opposite way … a creditor could say you owed money from 2019 just by adding ’19’ after the ’20.’
Just putting forth a little effort in writing 2020 out in full, which will eventually become habit if done often enough, is a small step toward protecting you and your family from check or document fraud.
From the entire team at Guard Well, we wish you a wonderful, happy and prosperous 2020. If you suspect that fraud has happened to you, we are available 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and firstname.lastname@example.org.