Fun Things to Do from Home … Really!

Fun Things to Do from Home … Really!

There are only so many closets that can be cleaned out and pantries to organize while practicing social distancing, right? Do you find that you’re running out of ideas to keep yourself entertained, your children learning and even your pets busy doing something not destructive … if even just for ten minutes? We understand that when you’re having to spend much more time with your family, how precious those ten minutes are!

 

Some of these ideas may already be in your repertoire. We hope that there are some new ones that will help put a smile on your face … and grant you those ten minutes of much-needed peace.

 

– Virtually travel to places you have always wanted to see. Some of our favorites are The Louvre in Paris; The San Diego Zoo and Monterey Bay Aquarium in California; Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Guggenheim in NYC; the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam; the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy; the Acropolis in Athens, Greece; and, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Visit Google Arts & Culture for even more amazing virtual experiences, including some for pets.

 

– Get creative in the kitchen. Since you have likely already cleaned out your pantry, you probably know what staples you have on hand. Learn how to improvise and have a contest as to who can come up with the best three-ingredient recipe. One of our favorites is to cook brunch in a large muffin tin. All it takes are three ingredients, a muffin tin, and, in four easy steps, you can have a simple but protein-rich brunch for six: 1) Grease the muffin tin (a large one with six works best). 2) Take some ham slices and line the bottom and sides of each muffin (turkey slices work just as well, too). 3) Break an egg over the top of each ham slice and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top. Bake until the eggs are set (about 20 -25 minutes) and viola! You have brunch for six and no mess to clean up. Check out Taste of Home for 64 for more ideas on cooking in a muffin tin.

 

– How is your green thumb? Did you know that you can re-grow vegetables in only a dish of water indoors in a matter of a couple of weeks? It is a great way to trim your grocery budget and make organic food much more affordable. Ten vegetables to try are celery, carrot greens, cabbage, bok choy, fennel, green onions, lettuce, and garlic chives. We have had the best experience with re-growing celery. Our first try of re-growing living lettuce didn’t go so well – the jury is still out for the second head, which is iceberg. Visit the Don’t Waste the Crumbs website for more indoor gardening ideas.

 

– Tired of looking at the same walls each day? You can redecorate your house without having to buy a thing. Try rearranging furniture and move your knickknacks to other rooms. If you have a sectional sofa, try splitting it up and move the pieces around, even setting them at angles instead of the typical box shape. Move your paintings and photos to other walls in different rooms. If you have a teenager in the house, suggest that they completely rearrange their room … it will certainly take a while and free up bandwidth so you can get some work done quicker! Likely they’ll end up cleaning out their closet and dresser drawers … again!

 

Whatever you do, please stay safe online. We suggest that you revisit our blog, Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips. As always, we are available 24/7/365 for you and your loved ones at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com. If you have any fun ideas that you have tried while social distancing, please share them with us in the comments below.

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

Many of us have been experiencing much more free time on our hands, which is great if you enjoy the sport of fishing, have a pile of books to read or Netflix shows to catch up on. Unless you are on the front line, life, as we know it during this pandemic, has forced the majority of us to slow down.

 

Our ‘new normal’ environment is a breeding ground for scammers to take advantage of you and your identity. Last month we wrote several blogs that specifically discussed the various types of coronavirus scams we had been witnessing. Check out Coronavirus Scams Are on the Rise, And More Coronavirus Scams, and Working From Home Cybersecurity Tips if interested in a quick refresher course or two.

 

Over the last two weeks we have seen a 70% increase in email phishing scams during this pandemic, which has undoubtedly touched every facet of our lives. These phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are even creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments. Don’t fall for any of it … but, in case you do, we suggest that you read our blog from October 2019 Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What?.

 

Today our advice is very simple: If you are not 100% certain of the origin of the email and/or link that you are being asked to click on … DO NOT CLICK. If for some reason you accidentally do click, there are some imperative steps to take to alleviate harm to you and/or the network you may be connected with:

 

– Try not to panic. This happens to everyone. Antivirus and anti-malware will come into play and you will need to have a full system scan. But first …

 

– End the session immediately by turning off Wi-Fi, unplugging from an ethernet cable or completely shutting down all of your devices.

 

– Initiate a back up of your files. Since you won’t be connected to the internet at this point, you won’t be able to accomplish this to the cloud. Having an external drive, DVD or thumb drive are always nice to have on hand during times like these.

 

– Change your login/password to email account(s) and enable two-factor authentication if this hasn’t already occurred.

 

– If you are employed by a company or organization, reference your manual and let your network administrator know of the potential issue.

 

– After all is said and done, check your antivirus/anti-malware software and run a full scan.

 

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Video calls have gone from a novelty to a necessity practically overnight. The term ‘social distancing’ and the app, Zoom, have both become household names as millions of people are being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The desire to stay connected with our loved ones and friends during this difficult time has sparked creative ways to virtually stay social through video birthday parties, happy hours, trivia nights, yoga sessions, and even weddings. CNBC reported this week that “the [Zoom] app has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18 … daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.”

 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom, a privately-held company headquartered in San Jose, CA, was used mostly for web conferencing webinars. Now it is being used by 90,000 schools across 20 countries. But, there are online security issues with the app and school districts have started to ban Zoom because of them. Why? Because of ‘Zoombombing,’ a phenomenon where uninvited guests (pranksters) join Zoom calls and broadcast porn or shock videos. How? Due to Zoom’s default settings, which don’t require a password to set a meeting and allow any participant to share their screen. Most Zoom meetings have a public link that, if clicked, allow anyone to join.

 

The Verge just reported that “Zoom adjusted their default settings for education accounts last week in an effort to increase security and privacy for meetings.” They also noted, “For everyone else, you’ll need to tweak your Zoom settings to ensure this never happens.” The process isn’t very simple…

 

If you schedule a meeting from the web interface, you won’t see the option to disable screen sharing. Instead:

 – Click on “Settings” in the left-hand menu

– Scroll down to “Screen Sharing” and under “Who Can Share?” click “Host Only”

– Click on “Save”

 

If you forget to change the setting before you start your meeting, there’s a way to modify your settings after it starts:

 – Once your Zoom meeting is running, click the caret to the right of the green “Share Screen” button in the center of the bottom row of icons

– Click “Advanced Sharing Options”

– A dialog box will pop up allowing you to switch screen sharing availability from all participants to the “Only Host”


Yes, these are very confusing times. Stay strong and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

 

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Coronavirus has forced millions of Americans to work remotely from their homes. Although working from home helps with social (physical) distancing by preventing the spread of COVID-19, there are many new challenges that have come with teleworking. For example, many states have closed schools for weeks, and for some, the entire rest of the school year. Parents may be juggling work while their children are learning remotely. You may find yourself becoming an expert with practicing mindfulness along with new software and conferencing programs, such as Zoom and GoToMeetings (or if you aren’t, your children blessedly are).

 

As we are being forced to slow down the pace of everyday life, we recognize that a lot of good can come out of this time. But, on the other side of the coin, there is the growing opportunity for cybercriminals to trick us into forking over passwords during this learning transitional period. Reuters reported last week that “some researchers have found hackers masquerading as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a bid to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin, while others have spotted hackers using a malicious virus-themed app to hijack Android phones.” Our blogs last week provided some details on these new scams.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some tips to help protect your devices and personal information while working from home:

Start with cybersecurity basics. Keep your security software up-to-date. Use passwords on all your devices and apps. Make sure the passwords are long, strong and unique. The FTC suggests using at least 12 characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters.

Secure your home network by starting with your router. Turn on encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), which scrambles information sent over your network so outsiders can’t read it. If no WPA2 or WPA3 options are available with your current router, considering replacing your router altogether.

Keep an eye on your laptop and make sure it is password-protected, locked when you aren’t using it and secure. We suggest that it is never unattended, such as out in plain sight in a vehicle. Even if your doors are locked, windows can easily be broken.

Securely store your physical files. Strong physical security is an important part of cybersecurity. If you don’t have a file cabinet at home that is lockable, consider using a locked room. Read this blog by the FTC to learn more tips about physical security.

Dispose of sensitive data securely. Invest in a shredder if you don’t already have one. Throwing paperwork you no longer need in the garbage or recycling bin can be a treasure for a pirate especially if it includes personal information about customers, vendors or employees.

Follow your employer’s security practices. Since your home is now an extension of your office, make sure that you understand the protocols that your employer has implemented.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888,966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

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And More Coronavirus Scams …

And More Coronavirus Scams …

We are monitoring updates surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the clock. This environment is a breeding ground for scams to take advantage of you and your identity. Rest assured that we are here to help and will communicate with you every step of the way.

 

The following is the latest information that we know of regarding coronavirus scams:

 

– The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam coronavirus treatments. The FTC reported that “So far all of the companies have made big changes to their advertising to remove unsupported claims.” That is good news. But, scammers never take a break.

 

– Anyone can set up an e-commerce site and claim they have in-demand products. Be on the lookout for online ads that tout cleaning, household and health/medical supplies. Just because they have a website and you pay money doesn’t mean that you will receive any goods in return. The FTC suggests that you check out any seller by searching online for the person or company name, phone number and email address along with keywords such as “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

 

– Anyone can also set up a fake charity to take advantage of a major health crisis. These scammers take advantage of your generosity and have names that are extremely close to the names of real charities. The FTC remarked that “Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.” We suggest that you visit http://www.ftc.gov/charity to help you research charities. Also, if/when you do give, pay safely by credit card and never by gift card or wire transfer.

 

– As well, anyone can pretend to be someone you know. “Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information – like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.” If you accidentally click on a link, they can get access to your computer, network and/or install ransomware and other programs on your equipment that can lock you out. Please protect your smart phone and computer by keeping your software up to date and using multi-factor authentication. Backing up your data on a regular basis is also recommended.

 

– Surprisingly robocalls “pitching everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes” are still in full force. Do not answer unless the call shows up as a contact in your phone. Let voicemail filter your messages. For more information on robocalls, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls.

 

We understand that all of this is indeed nerve-wracking. One of the great things about our business is that we are always working in the moment … situations such as the coronavirus do not rattle our operations and team members. Not only do we have a team at a centralized location, but we have also always worked remotely. We will continue to be available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind knowing that we are on top of this crisis and will continue to communicate any dangerous scams related to the outbreak as soon as possible.

 

As always, please contact us immediately if you have any concerns at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

COVID-19 is a breeding ground for scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted consumers that scammers are taking advantage of the panic and fear surrounding the global pandemic. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” remarked Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC. There are also malicious apps being developed, one of which is an Android tracker app that supposedly allows users to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, but locks victims’ phone and demands money to unlock it.

 

Phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. “They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.” Don’t fall for it.

 

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

– Do not click on any links from sources you do not know. Doing so could download a virus on your equipment.

– Be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will not email you. The World Health Organization (WHO) will not email you either.

– Ignore offers for vaccinations. Many ads exist touting prevention, treatment, and cure claims. They are not legitimate.

– Do not donate cash, purchase gift cards, or wire money without investigating the request in full. See the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams” for more information.

– The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about false “investment opportunities.” Be aware of online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Did you know that there are at least 48 different types of identity theft and the number of scams involved in each is growing daily? Romance scams, residence scams, utility scams, employment scams, telephone scams, email scams, charity scams, Apple care scams, AirBNB scams, PayPal scams, census scams, ticket scams, government scams, medical scams, insurance scams, real estate scams, investment scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams … there really isn’t one facet of our lives that isn’t ‘scam-able.’ As the weather turns colder, it kind of makes you want to curl up under an electric blanket and hibernate for a bit doesn’t it!

 

Although everyone with a social security number is at risk for identity theft, there are two groups that are targeted more often: children and seniors. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has studied why. They explain, “Children are targeted to establish a ‘clean slate.’ Seniors are targeted over the telephone and through phishing scams. Some studies suggest that people become more trusting as they age, which helps to explain why it’s more difficult for older adults to detect fraudsters.”

 

The next high-risk group that follows children and seniors are the military mostly due to deployment, which impacts their ability to respond to a threat in a timely manner. According to the Federal Trade Commission, military consumers are most affected by credit card and bank fraud. Another high-risk group is identity theft repeat victims. As reported in Consumer Affairs, “people who have previously been affected by identity theft are at a greater risk for future identity theft and fraud.” According to the Center for Victim Research, “7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year and 21% of those experience multiple incidents of identity theft.”

 

Lastly, the deceased are targeted. Stealing a dead person’s identity, commonly known as “ghosting,” will often go unnoticed by surviving family for months or years. A report dating from 2012 stated that 2.5 million deceased American identities are stolen each year. Of those 2.5 million stolen identities, 800,000 were used to open lines of credit or get a mobile phone plan.

 

Fraudsters oftentimes repeat their favorite most lucrative scams, which are driven by major financial life moments, such as taxes and holiday shopping. Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year, and, guess what … the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, is seeing a huge increase in fake Amazon.com order cancellation scams. If you receive an email about an order cancellation from Amazon, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Click on links in the email and you could unintentionally download malware onto your device. Or you might be sent to a site that aims to collect your Amazon account information, like your username and password. If you receive such an email and recently placed an order, go to Amazon.com directly to check your order status.

 

Most of our blogs offer tips to help protect yourself and your family from identity theft. There is one tip in this blog: Remain aware of scams and that they can touch every facet of your life. By staying in-the-know, you can help every month be National Cybersecurity Awareness month … not just October.

 

If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered identity theft, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Our Guard Well member services team is available around the clock, every day of the year. Email memberservices@guardwellid.com or call 888.966.GUARD (4827) for help.

Financial Tips for 2019 Grads

Financial Tips for 2019 Grads

It’s that exciting time of year! Cap and gowns are coming in and Pomp and Circumstance is running through your head as you prepare for the big event. If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, dollar signs may be running through your head as well, along with advice … and lots of it!

 

If you’re a grad, get ready to hear life experience stories from your graduation speaker and many others. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice for you as well. Learn how to recognize financial scams. Younger people report losing money to fraud more often than older generations. According to Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, 43% of those who reported fraud were in their 20s, while only 15% were in their 70s. Read More

 

What can you do to help avoid financial fraud?

– Never give out money or any personal identifying information (PII) in response to an unexpected request. Be wary of texts, phone calls and emails. Scammers commonly pretend to be someone you trust.

– Do your research. Be smart with your online searches and use terms like “complaint,” “scam” or “alert” along with the company name when you search.

– Understand that there’s no such thing as truthful caller ID anymore.

– Don’t wire money. Government and legitimate companies will not require you to pay for products or services with a reloadable gift card. Even using cards like iTunes and Google Play are risky.

– Recognize that robocalls are illegal and should be reported to the FTC. If you mistakenly answer one of these calls, hang up immediately.

 

Looking for a job?

– Check out job placement firms closely. These companies should not be charging high fees in advance for any type of service without a guarantee of placement.

– Keep in mind that the promise of a job isn’t the same thing as job. If you have to pay for that promise, it’s likely a scam. Read More

– Realize that there are many fake jobs listed on social media. Google the company name and visit their website along with the search term “career.” If jobs are not listed on their website and nothing comes up on Google, those are red flags.

– Don’t give out any credit or bank account information over the phone to a company unless they have hired you and have agreed to pay you something.

– Get job details in writing and take time to go over the small print. A legitimate company won’t pressure you into making an on-the-spot decision regarding your career.

 

Congratulations and make sure you enjoy your special day. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

 

For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Ten Signs You Have Been a Victim of Identity Theft

Ten Signs You Have Been a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity theft is rampant. One in three data breach victims will experience fraud according to a 2018 study by Javelin Strategy & Research. The number of identity fraud victims in the United States alone is at 16.7 million with over $16.8 billion stolen. Read More

 

Do you know the latest signs of identity theft? Here are the top ten red flags that trouble is brewing:

– You receive a notice, either in the mail or via email, that you have been a part of a data breach.

– Your credit score quickly drops without explanation.

– Withdrawals from your bank account start to occur … and they are withdrawals that you haven’t scheduled or already made.

– Although you haven’t filed any insurance claims, your rates rapidly rise.

– Your Social Security statements aren’t matching your records.

– There are suspicious charges on your credit card.

– You are turned down for a loan or credit card unexpectedly.

– Your credit report shows accounts that you have not opened.

– Either federal, your state or local taxing authority alerts you to their receipt of multiple filings in your name.

– You receive a bill for an item or service that you have not purchased … and from a company that you have never done business with.

 

Have you experienced any of the above? If yes, contact a fraud resolution specialist immediately.

Email Scams: What to Watch Out For

Email Scams: What to Watch Out For

Email scams, also known as phishing scams, are a popular fraudulent activity many criminals attempt to make use of. Usually, the emails are trying to steal your personal information such as bank details; they can pose as your bank or lull you into a false sense of complacently, by acting as if you’ve won a competition, for example. Other methods include infecting your computer with malicious malware, which will infect your computer or any other electronic device you’re using.

Luckily, there are many ways for you to stay one step ahead of phishing scams. Here’s what to watch out for when it comes to deciding whether an email is trustworthy or not.

Check the ‘From’ Address

The name may seem trustworthy and professional; however, if you hover over the sender’s name, you may be surprised to find out that it was sent by the email address ‘johndoe@hotmail.com’. Ask yourself, would your bank be contacting you through a Hotmail address? Of course, the answer would be a firm ‘no.’

How is the Greeting?

It’s easy to find out your name, but that doesn’t mean all scammers are likely to send you a personal email. They’re trying to hit as many people as they can, and so the email is more than likely to start with a simple and impersonal ‘Hi.’ Once this quick greeting is out-of-the-way, you’ll find that the email is rushing to get to the point: asking for your personal and bank details.

Cross-Examine the Branding

Anyone can work their magic with Photoshop, but that doesn’t mean the logo will be completely accurate. Check everything, from the line work to the coloring, to the slogan (if there is one), and whether they sit in the same place, they usually do. You should also check it against the last genuine email you were sent by them.

Are They Asking for Personal or Bank Details?

Not one company or business would ask you to input your personal or bank details through an email, and so if they are asking you to sign-in or update your existing details, it is likely going to be a scam. Personal details they may ask of you include:

  • Credit card number
  • PIN number
  • Credit card security code
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • The answer for any typical security questions, such as the name of your first pet or the street you grew up on.

Check the Grammar, Punctuation, and Spelling

Professional emails should not be littered with grammar, spelling or punctuation mistakes. Font styles and size should be consistent, and usually, a company will use the same font throughout all their company emails.

Make Contact with the Real Company

The safest route you can take is to contact the company directly and ask them whether they have sent a recent email to you. The company will be able to check, and with social media, they are incredibly quick at picking up these issues customers may be experiencing. Big companies are usually aware of scams that are currently circulating, and so they may already have an FAQ on scams to look out for.