Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Welcome to Identity Theft Awareness Week. January 29th to February 2nd, otherwise known as #IDTheftWeek, exists to spread resources so you and your loved ones can stay ahead of identity thieves. Whether you’re a business owner, a young adult, a service member, an older adult or someone caring for a senior, understand that knowledge is power and identity theft knows no boundaries.

With tax season right around the corner, it is especially important to know that one of the biggest signs of identity theft is when you are unable to file your tax return because someone else has already filed one using your personal identifying information (PII). Other signs of identity theft include seeing unfamiliar transactions on one of your accounts and/or seeing new accounts you didn’t open on one of your credit report checks.

Here are five tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help protect your identity:

– Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. If there is something that you don’t recognize, check into it. Even though you might have dreamed about a Louis Vuitton handbag, chances are you would know if you purchased one and certainly wouldn’t be footing the bill if you didn’t.

– Know your payment due dates. If a bill you pay regularly, such as your electric or water bill, doesn’t appear in your mailbox (or inbox), contact the provider immediately. The last thing you want is to have anything shut off in the dead of winter or an energy bill that is three times what you were expecting.

– Shred any documents that contain your PII, medical or financial information. Many national chains provide shredding services if you don’t own a personal shredder. Check out your local UPS store or FedEx Office for options.

– Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visit our credit report check for more information.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

 

Photo courtesy credit: Dylan Gillis via Unsplash.com

 

Scammers are Impersonating FTC Inspector General Katsaros

Scammers are Impersonating FTC Inspector General Katsaros

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released that scammers are using the names of their employees, including the Inspector General Andrew Katsaros to trick people into sending money or giving up their personal identifying information (PII).

What you need to know:

The FTC won’t threaten you or demand a payment. If you receive a phone call or mail with the name of the FTC Commissioner or staff member that threatens some dire consequence if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam. Don’t pay.

The FTC doesn’t give out prizes. If someone contacts you claiming that you need to pay to get your prize, it’s a scam. Don’t pay.

FTC employees won’t identify themselves with a badge number. If someone claiming to work for the FTC gives you a badge number, it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it and keep your PII safe!

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Source: Federal Trade Commission

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How to Spot a Scam with Children’s Health Insurance

How to Spot a Scam with Children’s Health Insurance

The cost of health care has skyrocketed in the United States. The very topic is as stressful as it is expensive. Did you know that the United States is the highest spending country on healthcare worldwide? In 2021, total health expenditure exceeded four trillion dollars with per capita health expenditure at $12,555.30. Statista Research recently reported that expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to increase to approximately 20% by 2030.

During the pandemic, each state’s Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helped millions of families with the cost of healthcare. With the end of the pandemic, states are reaching out to update Medicaid enrollments and scammers are already taking advantage of the situation. CHIP won’t ask you to pay to renew … but scammers will.

Here is what you need to know:

– CHIP won’t charge you to renew or enroll. They may reach out to you via email, phone or text but they will NOT ask you to pay, for any of your personal financial information and especially your credit card number or bank account information.

– Do NOT click! Even if it looks like a message is from your state’s Medicaid agency, if there is anything clickable in a message, assume it is scam and visit medicaid.gov to get contact information for your state’s Medicaid agency.

– Utilize healthcare.gov to complete insurance plans, find coverage and see if you are eligible. The website will ask you for your monthly income and age to give you a quote.

– Understand that medical discount plans are NOT insurance plans. Scammers will pitch discount plans to entice you and make you think they are the same as insurance.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Charles Deluvio via unsplash.com

Major Eyewear Company: Over 70 Million Hacked

Major Eyewear Company: Over 70 Million Hacked

Our security teams have recently discovered large data sets of compromised cyber elements on the Dark Web. On May 19th, the world’s largest eyewear company, Luxottica, confirmed reports of a 2021 data breach from a vendor’s computer network that leaked private information.

Luxottica, based in Milan, Italy, designs and manufactures sunglass and prescription frames. Brands include Burberry, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Georgio Armani, Michael Kors, Oakley and Ray-Ban. The company also owns several retailers selling products such as LensCrafters and Sunglass Hut.

The hacking origin date is November, 2022 with retail customer data exposed being name, email address, physical address and phone number.

The company’s public acknowledgement stated that they discovered through their “proactive monitoring procedures that certain retail customer data, allegedly obtained through a third-party vendor related to Luxottica retail customers, was published in an online post.” The company reported the incident to the FBI and the Italian Police. The owner of the website where the data was exposed has since been arrested by the FBI. The website that leaked the information has also been shut down and the investigation is still ongoing. Learn More

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

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The Top Scams of 2022

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a United States federal agency that works to prevent deceptive, fraudulent and unfair business practices. Their first objective is to identify fraud that cause the greatest consumer injury. Their second objective is to stop the fraud, deception and unfair practices through law enforcement. Finally, their third objective is to prevent consumer injury from happening in the first place through education.

Every year the FTC reports the top scam highlights of the previous year. This is how 2022 stacked up:

– Investment scams had the largest losses at $3.8 billion. Investment scams promise that you will make a lot of money quickly, easily and with low risk. The FTC reported that these scams involve the investment in financial or real estate markets. Learn how to research investment opportunities HERE.

– Impersonator scams were, once again, the most reported scam. Losses from these scams total $2.6 billion for 2022. The FTC reported that the major difference in this type of scam from the previous year is that there were higher losses to business imposters to the tune of $660 million in comparison to last year’s $453 million. Scams in this category include social security, IRS, romance, caregiver, family emergency, tech support and grandchild scams. Learn how to identify a scam happening to you or a loved one by viewing the short videos HERE.

How were scams identified and processed? Some losses were through bank transfers. Others started on social media and phone calls. Young adults in their 20s reported losses more often than seniors in their 70s. Unfortunately, the seniors lost more money than any other age group.

The FTC has a PDF available for download with a visual snapshot of the top frauds of 2022. Click HERE to learn about the rest of 2022’s top scams and view the PDF.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827.

FBI’s Vetted Threat Sharing Network Hacked

FBI’s Vetted Threat Sharing Network Hacked

Just recently, our security teams have discovered large data sets of compromised cyber elements on the Dark Web. The breached site is InfraGard.org, which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and key members of the private sector for the protection of the United States critical infrastructure.

InfraGard members are in roles involved in both cyber and physical security at companies that manage most of the nation’s critical infrastructures, including drinking water, power utilities, communication and financial services firms, transportation and manufacturing companies, healthcare providers and nuclear energy firms.

The breach origin date is December 2022 and data exposed includes their members’ contact information, such as name, email and phone numbers. The FBI stated that “this is an ongoing situation” and that they are “not able to provide any additional information at this time.” Approximately 80,000 InfraGard members are impacted. Learn more HERE.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. It has been a pleasure protecting America’s workforce for the last decade. We look forward to many years and much more growth to come.

Be vigilant. Be strong. Stay in the know. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske on Unsplash.com.

Hurricane Ian Scams: Protecting Yourself from Charity and Disaster Fraud

Hurricane Ian Scams: Protecting Yourself from Charity and Disaster Fraud

On September 28th, Ian, the fifth strongest hurricane on record in the United States, slammed into Florida as a category four. Devastation, flooding, loss of life and significant property damage along the rest of Ian’s path occurred in multiple states over the next few days. Following natural disasters like Ian, charity and disaster schemes from scammers quickly come to surface to those who were directly impacted and others that want to help.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has sent out reminders and tips on how to avoid falling victim to charity and disaster fraud.

– All government officials are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. If you are hesitant to believe them, contact the FBI directly to confirm their identity.

– All Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and assistant agencies will not ask for money to apply for assistance and they will not ask you for any financial information. If someone comes door-to-door, calls, texts or emails you, do not immediately give out your personal identifying information (PII), such as your social security number or bank account information, without first confirming their identity as legitimate and not a scammer.

– If you would like to donate to the many charities that are assisting survivors, understand that there are some fake charities out there. Unless you are giving to a charitable agency that you know and trust, go online and research the reviews and ratings as established by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If you do donate, use a credit card. Gift cards and wire transfers are highly discouraged. Also remember that no legitimate agency is going to pressure you to donate.

We would like to remind you to not click on links from sources you do not know. The FBI suggests to manually type out the links instead of clicking them to prevent attempts to download viruses on your cell or laptop/computer.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns or suspect that you or a family member has been a victim of fraud, please contact Member Services immediately. We are open and always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).

 

Photo credit: NASA under license via unsplash.com.

Student Loan Scams Are On The Rise

Student Loan Scams Are On The Rise

On August 24th, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the one-time federal student loan debt relief plan. While the forgiveness plan is designed to help many low and middle-income families, we are now seeing an increase in scams that have the potential to hurt them badly.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests some ways to avoid being a victim of a student loan scam:

Never pay an up-front fee. Companies that charge you before they help you are breaking the law. Don’t fall for the ads that promise to help you with student loan debt. If you have federal loans, go to the Department of Education at StudentAid.gov.

Don’t sign up for quick loan forgiveness. Even though they might say they can wipe out your loans by disputing them, they can not.

Don’t trust a Department of Education seal. Even though it might look like an official seal and logo, it likely isn’t.

Don’t rush. Scammers will ask you to act fast so you don’t “miss” qualifying for repayment plans, loan consolidation or forgiveness programs.

Don’t provide your FSA ID to anyone. This is your private information and can be used to steal your identity.

The FTC also stressed that there is nothing a company can do for you that cannot do yourself for free. Again, if you have federal loans, start with StudentAid.gov/repay. If your loans are private, contact your lender directly.

To learn more about the debt relief plan from the U.S. Department of Education, click HERE.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Member Services immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).

 

Photo courtesy credit: Muhammad Rizwan via unsplash.com.

Fraud Trend Alert: End-of-life IT Gear

Fraud Trend Alert: End-of-life IT Gear

There is a new fraud trend we are seeing that almost victimized a client of ours who is a very large, well-known employer in the Cincinnati, Ohio tri-state region. We highly suggest that you share this blog to your company IT contact or a company team member whose duties include data security – IT security – technology security and/or IT gear and infrastructure protection.

 

One of our Guard Well product offerings is Enterprise Data Risk Mitigation. It is a program we developed to help organizations by purchasing their end-of-life IT gear, wipe and certify the drives … at no cost … then repurpose the gear. Essentially we turn a data risk and pending expense into a liability shift and a profit. It’s a very effective … and popular program.

 

Last week we were preparing to pull a large lot of gear from one of our clients when two individuals, claiming to be hired by a third party, showed up on the campus insisting they needed to pick up any used IT gear for “processing.” Luckily our client sensed something was incorrect and reached out to Guard Well asking us if we had sent two men to pick up the gear. We informed them that we did not send these individuals and by the time our phone call ended both men had left the campus.

 

What these men were attempting to do is steal the IT gear, most likely to harvest the sensitive company data and sell it to hackers or hold it for ransom until the company paid them to return the data. Due to the large security concerns, we highly suggest that your organization verifies steps taken to protect the sensitive data stored in end-of-life IT gear. Guard Well will partner with any organization looking for a safe, reliable way to manage the proper decommissioning of this gear and turn a profit from its remaining, but depreciating, value.

 

We can work anywhere in the USA, so please let us know how we can help. Be vigilant. Be strong. If you have any concerns or think you have been a victim of fraud, please contact our Member Services immediately so we can fully resolve the issue for you. We are always available 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).

 

Photo credit: Malachi Brooks via unsplash.com

Dramatic Spike in Unemployment Fraud: What You Need to Know

We have seen a dramatic spike in unemployment fraud, PPP fraud and SBA loan fraud.

 

Some of you may have received or will be receiving unemployment benefits. Or, maybe you are an employer and have received notice that an employee of yours applied for unemployment benefits. The thieves simply apply for benefits or loans using your PII or confidential business information.

 

Your state’s Department of Jobs & Services is aware that many of these applications are fraudulent. Several states, such as Ohio, are in process of launching an online option for employers to report potential fraud on behalf of multiple current or former employees. For information about Ohio, please click HERE.

 

Be vigilant. Be strong. If you are concerned that you or an employee has been a victim of unemployment fraud, please reach out to Member Services. We are available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).